Explore Microscopy Outreach Activities
After I retired from a career in clinical laboratory science working in hospital labs, I decided I wanted to help STEM education by bringing good quality microscopes into classrooms. I joined the Inland Area Science Teachers Association, gave a few classroom demonstrations and proctored the epidemiology part of the local Science Olympiad competition for several years. Mike Horton, Science Coordinator for the Riverside County Office of Education and member of IASTA, asked me to bring some microscopes to a Science Fair Expo they were having. A few weeks later he invited me to display my microscopes and specimens at the Science and Technology Education Partnership in 2010 at the Riverside, CA, Convention Center.
When I arrived at the Convention Center, I found what looked like a science or business convention, complete with nice booths, banners, and all the trappings. I found myself next to Abbot Vascular, and across the aisle from the US Navy Surface Warfare Center in Norco. Boeing Aircraft, the US Army, General Atomics (who put on a heck of a science show), and UC Irvine were there as well. It turned out to be an outstanding outreach event.
Now called STEPCon (https://www.stepconference.org/link_2021.cfm) it was moved to a new permanent home at Bourns Engineering (https://www.bourns.com/) in Riverside, thanks to the generosity of CEO Gordon Bourns, and Yamileth Shimojyo has taken over for Mike. I’ve been involved every year since.
The two day Conference displays are extremely popular in the education community. Bus transportation expenses for the students are even paid by STEPCon. As a result, the 5,000 student signup limits were reached online in 15 minutes the last couple of years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Covid forced the 2020 edition to be completely virtual. As a nice side effect, somewhere around 20,000 kids signed up rather than the 2,500 the on site displays allowed each of the two days. The 2021 edition was partially virtual, and partially in person, with around 500 kids visiting and the event mostly outdoors for one day. Hopefully the 2022 event will be fully attended, with a large online component as well, to allow as many kids and teachers as would like to attend to do so.
This website has been designed as an adjunct to the Explore Microscopy displays. For the online visitors it will provide an idea of what the in person displays involve. While not hands-on, this virtual display will have more images, and certainly more background and supplemental information available for both students and teachers. The Microscopy Web Resources page is a greatly expanded version of a list that was available to visitors by email. All of the links are live and confirmed good. And each of the display microscopes will have a QR Code attached that will directly link to an informational page on this website that is specific to that specimen. There will be additional information and links as well.
Most of the 67,000+ students who have had a chance to look through my microscopes have been at STEPCon. The banner image at the top of the page, and the students pictured below were photographed at STEPCon events prior to Covid. From the looks on their faces you can get an idea how much they enjoyed the experience. Hopefully, this website will help make it even more informative in the future.
Just some of the 67,000+ kids who have had the
opportunity to look through these microscopes
Explore Microscopy Specimen Collection slides used in the demonstrations
These images are taken from slides used in the demonstrations. As you can see, they are not your normal teaching slides, with the exception of the onion root tip showing mitosis. Many of the slides used are antique, some from as long ago as the 1880’s. And many of them, such as the thin section of a meterorite from the asteroid Vesta, are extremely rare as well. Others, like the slide of Pleural Fluid showing Breast Cancer cells, are only seen in specialized circumstances. In this case only examined by clinical laboratory personnel during diagnostic testing. The images of pond life are representative, and not from the actual specimens shown. Each display has pond life freshly collected with a plankton net, generally either from Lake Gregory, in the San Bernardino mountains near where I live, or Lake Evans, in Riverside’s Fairmount Park. I’ve chosen theses slides to provide a visual experience unlike any other for the students and teachers visiting Explore Microscopy.