Making Collections and Drawing Samples


Sherlock Holmes could identify many different types of tobacco ash. He probably started by identifying and making a collection of each type of tobacco ash. Then when he found some ash at the scene of a crime, he only had to match it with one in his collection to know what it was.

You can make collections of different types of samples. Not only is making collections fun, but it can help you to solve mysteries just like Sherlock Holmes.


Make collections of as many different types of samples as you can collect.


Your first collection should be something that is easy to find such as different types of paper. Collect a small piece of every kind of paper that you can find around the house. For example, you might want to collect newspaper, magazine paper, a paper napkin, writing paper, and any other kind you can find.

Look at your first sample of paper under the microscope. Be sure to use a magnification that is strong enough to let you see the details of the paper. On an index card, draw what you see under a microscope. Be as accurate as you can. Next to your drawing write down any details you notice. Make sure you label your drawings using the name of the sample and magnification.

On another card, draw the second sample of paper as seen under the microscope. Use the same magnification you did with the first sample. Continue this process with each of your samples. Once you have your collection of many different types of paper, have a friend give you a sample of mystery paper that you can identify by comparing it to your collection. You and your friend can even make up a mystery story that can only be solved by using a microscope to identify a piece of paper left behind at the scene.

Further Exploration

You can make collections of many different types of samples. Here are a few suggestions: hair from different animals, threads from different types of fabric, pollen grains from different flowers, scales from different fish (by counting the rings on the scale you can tell the fish's age), and you can probably think of many others.

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