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CHECK POLLEN WITH A MICROSCOPE
be interesting to see how many different kinds of pollen, and what other
substances may be floating around in the breeze. In addition to being
interesting, this infor-
The way we will find out is by coating some slides (oblong pieces of thin glass, used to receive substances that will be checked under a microscope) with petroleum jelly. Perhaps each of the students can take one home, and put it in the back yard. It would be a good idea to use a clothespin to hang the slide on a strong stem of a tall plant in or near your garden. Also, we will hang a few slides around the school yard. The class will be divided into five groups. We'd best start this project on a Friday. Group # 1 will bring their slides back on Monday, after hanging outside over the weekend; group # 2 can bring theirs' back on Tuesday; group # 3 on Wednesday; group # 4 on Thursday, and group # 5 on Friday.
Each day, we will check one slide from the school yard, plus the slides from the group that was scheduled to bring back their slides from home. Before putting the slides under the microscope, we will mix in a bit of crystal violet and aniline oil, then heat the slide over our lab burner. This is called "fixing" the slides. It makes it easier to see the different substances that are on the slide.
It will be fun to count the different kinds of "specks" we see on each slide, and to see that the ones that are outside the longest will have the most specks. Since we're really not botanists, we can't expect to be able to identify the substances on the slides; we can notice that there are different kinds of "specks." However, we could collect some pollen from different flowers, using a cotton swab or popsicle stick, and look at them under the microscope. We might find that some of the pollen we collect has fallen naturally onto some of our slides. That way, we could at least identify the pollens that appear to be the same as that which we have collected.
How do we tell that there are different kinds of stuff on the slides? By the shapes, the sizes, and the colors of the substances. Depending upon the winds, and the kinds of agriculture or industry that takes place around our school district, there will be dust and dirt on our slides, as well as pollen.
This project is done routinely by environmentalists, who need to find out what is in the air we breathe. People who have allergies are helped by this because when their doctors know what is currently in the air, they can prescribe the right medicines to treat the allergies. In areas where there is usually a heavy smog problem, people with certain allergies or respiratory diseases are warned to stay inside their homes on days when the environ- mentalists find certain kinds of harmful substances on their collecting slides. In areas where there are many farms, the environmentalists can issue warnings when certain pollens are in the air. Ragweed pollen can be very dangerous to people with some kinds of allergies, and if they know that it will be in the air, there is medicine they can take before going outside.
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