I am a senior at the University of Delaware, majoring in Spanish Studies with a minor in Latin America and Iberian Studies. I am a photographer and journalist.
Learn more about Donovan Aldridge
October 18, 2021
Science Through a New Lens
How a Paper Microscope is Paving the Way for Students, Teachers and Conservation
One a cool Sunday in October of 2020, I did not rush inside to go watch any of the football games on my living room TV. I was so engaged with looking at the wings of a Spotted Lantern Fly for one of my classes that I lost interest in one America’s most popular sporting traditions. What had me more engaged than watching NFL football? I was given a Foldscope to assemble and use and was so excited by what I saw that I didn’t want to put it down.
What is a Foldscope? Foldscopes are paper microscopes made from durable and waterproof paper. They come with a tiny lens capable of magnifying objects 140 times. The lens can either be viewed by the naked eye or by attaching a mobile device and looking through its camera. Foldscopes can be assembled individually using an instruction guide or through a guided video.
Foldscopes provide a cost-effective and user-friendly alternative to a traditional compound light microscope used in laboratories. Traditional microscopes are more expensive, hard to transport, and require electricity which can be difficult in regions where it isn’t readily available. Due to the Foldscopes material, small size, and ease of use, they can be put into the hands of anyone who wants one. Additionally, they can be taken into the field no matter the conditions or taken into areas where there is little access to electricity (Microbe Online).
In Peru, ACEER has successfully launched over 1,000 Foldscopes in the Madre de Dios region over the last several years, assisting teachers, students, and volunteers.
ACEER member Theraney Gonzales shared the positive impact that Foldscopes have in the classroom. “Teaching science in peruvian schools is really difficult for many reasons. One of them is the lack of science instruments and tools,” he said. “The Foldscope has been a wonderful tool for addressing science at schools. They help to get children interested in observation and in science,” he said.
In the United States, ACEER introduced teachers to Foldscopes during their Delaware Teachers Institute (DTI) Summit this past summer.
Holly Byrk, one of the teachers apart of the summit was particularly drawn by Foldscopes and was excited that she could include them into her plant curriculum.“I think that my middle school students will really like this activity,” she said. “We can use Foldscopes to get a closer look at specific plant matter,” she said.
When students spend time observing and studying the world around them “they gain a deeper appreciation of the organisms they share the planet with,” said Jamie Becker, Assistant Professor of Biology at Alvernia University. Becker led a workshop demonstrating Foldscope’s ability to examine microbes at the DTI summit.
“Looking at samples under the Foldscope reveals the incredible diversity of life surrounding us and is an important reminder of the unifying threads that connect all life on Earth at the cellular and sub-cellular level. Visualizing these connections is the first step toward a conservation mindset,” he said.
Foldscopes can be put into the hands of anyone, so the type of information that can be gathered across different areas is vast. From animal health to education and everything in between, Foldscopes bring microscopy and citizen science microscopy to everyone.
Since Foldscopes have been launched in Peru, ACEER has run workshops about stomata and butterflies in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. Both of these workshops have helped students and ACEER gather information and discuss the importance of climate change, biodiversity, conversation, and the Amazon Rainforest (Focal Plane).
Foldscopes are incredible tools that help discover a part of our world that many of us aren’t aware of. For me, I found it rewarding when I put down my phone or got away from the TV and explored my backyard for once. Being able to use a Foldscope enhanced my understanding of nature around me, but furthered my knowledge and curiosity for the bugs, leaves, plants and animals living in it as well.
As Autumn starts to set in, many of us will spend days outside apple picking or taking long walks, gazing at the sea of leaves changing from green and yellow to deep reds and oranges. This season always provides an opportunity to reconnect with nature and get away from our mobile distractions. This small paper microscope can show you a world that you’ve never seen before. So what are you waiting for? Go out and explore!
Moreno-Roman, Paola. “Foldscope Goes to the Peruvian Amazon!” Focal Plane, 18 Nov. 2020, focalplane.biologists.com /2020/11/18/ foldscope-goes-to-the-peruvian-amazon/
Gautam, Anil. “Foldscope: Paper Microscope.” Microbe Online, 4 June 2021, microbeonline.com/foldscope-paper-microscope-features/#llc_comments.