RIC elementary education teacher candidates pioneer use of digital microscope in science classroom

Grade 3 students and their teachers: (seated, from left) Jason Desjarlais, Zane Frattarelli and Ava Fraatz; (standing, from left) Sarah Schimansky, Elizaveta Zhukov, Grace Starosciak, Caleb Orrall, Julia Costa and Diane Alessandrini.
During the Dec. 13 Coventry School Committee meeting, three Rhode Island College elementary education teacher candidates, Diane Alessandrini, Caleb Orrall, and Sarah Schimansky, and their six Grade 3 Washington Oak School students showcased the use of a handheld digital microscope during elementary science lessons.

Under the supervision of Grade 3 teacher Janet Conti and Washington Oak School‘s principal, Donna Raptakis, RIC ELED teacher candidates pioneered the use of the microscope – called the ProScope HR – at Coventry’s Washington Oak School during their elementary science practicum.

A digital microscope is a technical resource used to magnify small objects. The microscope captures and records images and videos using software on computers. The user-friendly ProScope HR is equipped with interchangeable lens (10x, 50x, 200x, 400x) and an LED light and easily connects to a computer using a USB cable and wirelessly to an iPad or iPhone. Digital microscopes are not new; the Japanese developed the first one in 1986.

A crayfish abdomen, left, and eye, right, using a ProScope HR digital microscope (50x lens).
During the fall semester, the teacher candidates used the ProScope HR with their Grade 3 students during hands-on science lessons using live crayfish and Bess beetles. Students developed an understanding of structures of live organisms by capturing images, observing finer details and drawing scientifically.

Lance Johnson explains his scientific drawing of crayfish structures – eye, pincer, carapace and swimmerets.
During the School Committee meeting, RIC teacher candidates and their professor, MacGregor Kniseley, as well as Conti and her six Grade 3 students – Julia Costa, Jason Desjarlais, Ava Fraatz, Zane Frattarelli, Grace Starosciak and Elizaveta Zhukov – were introduced to the committee, superintendent and community. Then, the RIC elementary education teacher candidates taught the attendees how to use the ProScope HR and capture still, video and time lapse images while teaching life, earth and physical science.

Six Grade 3 students took turns describing the properties of the structures of classroom organisms observed and captured by the digital microscope – such as the eye and carapace of a crayfish and the joints in the appendage of a Bess beetle.

Elizaveta Zhukov compares the ProScope HR with a traditional miscroscope.
Raptakis, who is a RIC alum, praised the seven-year partnership with Rhode Island College: “Our partnership with the Feinstein School of Education and Professor MacGregor Kniseley…has moved us forward in using cutting-edge technical resources in our classrooms. In addition to standard multi-media classroom presentation tools…and Internet-based video streaming curriculum, we’re using classroom response systems, Smart Board, and mobile laptop carts.”

She added that during the past five years she and her faculty have written many successful, competitive grants to bring valuable technical resources and professional development to all of her faculty and staff.

During spring 2012, Kniseley will work with RIC teacher candidates and 10 PreK-5 teachers from several schools to learn more about the use of digital microscopes in elementary classrooms. After professional development, participants will test the ProScope HR in their classrooms for about eight weeks. Participants will teach lessons with a digital microscope, share ideas, and provide feedback and advice. Then, Kniseley will develop a guide for using digital microscopes in PreK-5 classrooms.