What could be cooler than bugs? How about bugs up close and personal?
Enter Bugscope, a project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through Bugscope, children from kindergarten through college collect their own bugs and study them through a scanning electron microscope housed at UIUC’s Beckman Institute.
The process is pretty simple: teachers or homeschoolers submit an application to use the $800,000 microscope. Once the application is approved and a time is scheduled, students collect and send in their bug samples. The staff prepares the bugs for the session. During the session, students remotely control the microscope and chat with Beckman Institute scientists about what they see.
I can’t think of a better way to get children excited about science. Beckman scientists have participated in 300 microscope sessions with 200 different schools since 1999. Oh, how I am counting the days until I have a kindergartener, so I can convince the classroom teacher to schedule a Bugscope session.
In the meantime, I’ll have to rely on Alexandra Siy’s latest, Bug Shots: The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly, which she illustrates with images taken with a scanning electron microscope. Book review coming soon!