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Digital present left unopened

Primary teachers around the country are delighted, but baffled, by their new, complimentary microscopes. Helen Ward reports

IT'S free, it's fun and it may even be educational - once teachers work out how best to use their new digital microscopes in lessons.

As part of Science Year, every primary school in the country has been given the amazing piece of equipment which can magnify objects up to 200 times - powerful enough to count the hairs on a honey bee's leg. As in a digital camera, the images are displayed on a computer screen. Once on screen, they could illustrate writing, be used as part of an email or in time-lapse movies.

However, Roger Mitchell, chairman of the Association for Science Education's primary committee, fears the pound;75 microscopes could languish in their boxes, and the secret world they reveal remain forever obscure, because teachers need more help in how to use them.

A letter sent with the microscope told teachers that more information could be found on a Science Year website. But Mr Mitchell said: "I spent half a day working out how to use it in lessons and then took it home and plugged it into the computer there. It was a big investment of time. If someone has not got that time they will not get the most out of it.

"It is a wonderful piece of kit, but I am really worried that it will get left in its box and not used."

Science co-ordinator Davina Clay, of Queniborough primary in Leicestershire, said: "It came with some slides, but they were of dog hair and sponge. It would have been better if it had come with slides about parts of the flower which we cover in this age group. It is fun and easy to use, but it could have been better prepared."

Melanie Renowden, project manager for Science Year, said: "The letter we sent out with the microscope mentions a website link where there are resources on using the microscope which are linked to the primary curriculum."

Science Year has also funded the ASE to provide material for a CD-Rom about primary science which is due to be distributed with TES Primary magazine.

The website is at www.learn.co.ukpromomicroscopedefault.htm

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