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What's under the microscope?

Full Day
Book Program
Year Levels


Cells are the basic unit of living things and have specialised structures and functions. Most cells cannot be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, microscopes are used to study cells.

A stereo microscope is primarily used for viewing relatively large and solid specimens. They have a low magnification power and use two separate eyepieces with two objectives, which provides a three-dimensional image.

A compound microscope uses two sets of lenses to obtain a higher magnification than a stereo microscope. They are used to view small samples that cannot be identified with the naked eye. These samples are usually placed on a slide under the microscope. A compound microscope provides a two-dimensional image.

Key Learning Question

How is cell structure related to its function?

Prior Knowledge

Prior knowledge about cell organelles is preferred.

Learning Intentions

In this program students will:

  • Understand the different techniques used to prepare slides
  • Understand the difference between unicellular and multicellular cell structure & function


The students will:

  • Use a compound and a stereo microscope to examine the transport system in plants, by observing prepared slides and making wet mount slides.
  • Prepare a wet mount slide of Elodea, and use a compound microscope to investigate cell structure and function.
  • Study unicellular wetland organisms using compound microscopes, by preparing wet mount slides and using stains to concentrate on their different methods of locomotion.

Learn Online

Ecolinc Learn Online is a virtual outreach learning management system (LMS) offering interactive online courses for students and teachers. These courses can be undertaken either as a pre-visit, post-visit or stand-alone.

Students are encouraged to do the pre-learning course on Ecolinc Learn Online called Magic Microscopes prior to coming to Ecolinc. Students are introduced to the parts of a compound light microscope, their use and the correct procedure for focusing on a prepared specimen through a short video and four interactive activities.

Victorian Curriculum

  • Cells are the basic units of living things and have specialised structures and functions (VCSSU092)
  • Multicellular organisms contain systems of organs that carry out specialised functions that enable them to survive and reproduce (VCSSU094)