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Dust Catchers

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, Barbara Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

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Have the students take their dust catchers home and place them on a flat surface where the dust catcher will not be disturbed for 1-2 weeks. After all students have brought their dust catchers back to school, open a discussion about what they see on their dust catchers. (Some will have a visible sprinkling or layer of particles; others will have few or no visible particles.) 

Have the Materials Managers collect enough hand lenses for their groups. Each student should examine the dust on his or her dust collector and, if time permits, on the dust collectors of other group members.

Each student should use a magnifier to view and count the number of particles within four randomly chosen squares on the grid. (You may elect to vary the number of squares counted, depending on the type of graph paper used. Paper with a grid size of approximately 1 cm works well.) 

Students should record the number of particles counted in the appropriate place on their student sheets (if you have made a copy for each student), or have them record the number in their journals or notebooks. 

If you have low-power microscopes available, help students to examine their grids under higher magnification. (Trimming the construction paper around the graph paper square will make it easier to fit under the microscope.)

Ask, What kinds of particles did you capture? In many cases, students will see small hairs, tiny pieces of ash, crumbs, and/or bits of thread or lint on their dust catchers. With the aid of microscopes, students also may see pollen grains, pieces of molds and very small insect parts. Have students draw some of the particles they observed. 


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Numbers: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education