Magnifying and Observing Cells

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In this activity related to microbes, learners make slides of cells from an onion skin and Elodea (American or Canadian waterweed) to observe under a microscope. With these examples, learners will be able to see basic parts of cells. This lesson guide includes background information and handouts.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 6 sheets of card stock
  • Overhead projector
  • Pair of scissors or a paper cutter
  • Safety goggles
  • Sharp knife
  • Transparency of Magnifying Cells sheet
  • 4 pairs of safety goggles
  • 2 plastic cover slips
  • 2 plastic microscope slides
  • 2 pairs of forceps
  • 1/6 of an onion, vertical slice
  • Small stalk of Elodea leaves
  • Iodine solution and pipette (dropper)
  • Water and pipette (dropper)
  • Microscope (one or more per group)
  • Science notebooks or drawing paper
  • Set of Preparing & Viewing Slides cards
  • Group concept map (ongoing, if available)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
      • Classification
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Moreno, Nancy P. ; Tharp, Barbara Z. ; Erdmann, Deanne B. ; Clayton, Sonia Rahmati ; Denk, James P.


  • All rights reserved, Baylor College of Medicine, 2008

Funding Source:

  • Science Education Partnership Award, 5R25 RR018605