When young children use magnifiers

Young children are curious about magnification.

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I brought magnifiers into the twos classroom today as a tool for looking at dead insects (and a few other invertebrates) and butterfly eggs on collard plants. The children have used magnifiers many times before but they are always intrigued, and maybe even a little surprised, when things “get bigger”. One child asked why the magnifier made things bigger. I had him feel the shape of the lens to feel how the plastic curved and told him the curve bends the path of light so the image looks bigger. I don’t expect him to understand all of that, but we then looked at a Discovery Bottle which has two balls in water—one floating and one not. The floating pink ball is visible both above and below the waterline, and it looks noticeably bigger under the water. I asked the children, “Is the ball really bigger under the water or does it just look that way?” And then held my finger under a magnifier and asked, “Does my finger look bigger or did it really get bigger?” The children said it just looked bigger but felt my finger to check.
(Note that when we ask either-or questions, we tend to end with the “right” answer: “Should we use the magnifier for digging in the dirt or for looking?” Try to switch it up so you can tell if the children are really thinking about what you are asking or if they are responding to a pattern in questioning. Or ask open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me how this tool should be used.”)
What other experiences with light will prepare children to understand about how light forms images?

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7 Responses to When young children use magnifiers

  1. What an interesting observation “when we ask either-or questions, we tend to end with the ‘right’ answer.” I hadn’t thought about that. I prefer to ask open-ended questions but sometimes either/or, yes/no questions just pop out.

  2. PeggyA says:

    Check it out when you hear teachers ask either-or questions and let me know if my observation is repeated elsewhere. Yes to open-ended questions! Then we don’t have to worry about accidently telling when we mean to be asking students what they see.

  3. Very interesting to see children so interested in learning.
    I love to see children so engaged in lessons, they appear to want to know more and more.
    Their curious questions let us see how interested they really are.

  4. Heike Roka says:

    Young children and magnifiers are a great combination for exploring the playground during recess time. The children find anything interesting that is available to them, ranging fro different colored rocks to plants and seeds.

  5. Peggy Ashbrook says:

    Heike, that sounds like a great idea. Do you have any recommendations for storing the magnifiers so that they are not left in the sandbox or in a pile of toys (which has been my experience)? I’m wondering if children would be more likely to put the magnifiers away if they had a little shoulder bag or holster for the lenses. What do you do?

  6. Regina says:

    I love allowing children, especially the younger ones, to use magnifiers. They become so enthusiastic about viewing various objects to make them appear larger. The children in my class used them to view words and/or pictures in books and magazines. They really enjoyed this activity.

  7. Carmen says:

    Thank you for your idea on using maginifiers to look at words and pictures in books. I never thought of this before and I’m going to take this idea back to my classroom tomorrow!

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