Saturday | October 21, 2017
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Window on a microscopic world

BY CAROLYN LUCAS-ZENK | WEST HAWAII TODAY

A donation is helping budding young scientists put their world under the microscope.

Fifty digital video microscopes and related supplies are being given to middle schools statewide, thanks to the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, or C-MORE, and its wide-ranging education program.

This effort is in partnership with the state Department of Education and the UH Fostering Inspiration and Relevance through Science and Technology Pre-Academy Initiative.

The goal is to give local children the tools to learn and make discoveries, as well as realize their ambitions and take more of an interest in science. Furthermore, C-MORE also hopes to shed light on the hidden world of micro-organisms, or microbes, in the sea, said Jim Foley, a marine science educator with C-MORE.

"Every drop of seawater contains some of the most important organisms on the planet, and most people probably don't even realize it. Microbes are the engines of the marine food web, and produce about half of the oxygen that we breathe," Foley said.

To receive the equipment, teachers must attend a free C-MORE professional development workshop to learn how to safely collect plankton and how to operate and care for the microscope. Teachers who attend the workshop will earn DOE professional development credit. They will also learn about free hands-on and online curricular resources.

There is a limit of one microscope per middle school. The next workshop, which includes lunch, is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 3 in Hilo. Keaau Middle School, Hilo Intermediate and Waiakea Intermediate were the only Big Island schools signed up as of Tuesday, Foley said.

Those interested in participating have until Feb. 27 to sign up and can do so by emailing foleyj@hawaii.edu or calling 956-7739.

Since the effort began in December, workshops have been held on Oahu and Maui, where 13 microscopes were distributed. The microscopes are easy to use, can attach to a computer and have the ability to display images to the entire class, Foley said.

After using the video microscope in her classroom, one teacher was impressed about the impact the experience had on her students.

"These lessons are blowing them away. They had no idea that there were microscopic things living in the ocean," she wrote. "They asked millions of questions along the lines of 'So when we swim at the beach, these things are touching us?' and if there were 'things' in our drinking water. It totally opened their eyes to the fact that there are microscopic creatures all around us."

For more information, visit cmore.soest.hawaii.edu/education.htm.

clucas-zenk@westhawaiitoday.com