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Life under the microscope

1.5 Hours Per Group
Book Program
Year Levels


We shed 500 million skin cells every day with a new skin surface every 2-4 weeks. Have you ever wondered what skin cells look like? In this program students will learn which animals moult their outer covering and investigate some of these under the microscope. They will learn some of the reasons for this interesting adaptation and determine the advantages and disadvantages of this process.

Feathers are truly amazing. They are a key, perhaps the key, to the extraordinary success of birds, and they help determine how and where birds live. Students can discover how a feather is a marvellously complex structure, observing the finer details under a microscope. They will be able to notice the different types of feathers and important role feathers play in a bird’s survival.

The platypus is a unique Australian mammal species. They are monotremes which are distinguished from all other mammals because the females lay eggs. The platypus is well adapted for a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its streamlined body and broad, flat tail are covered with dense waterproof fur which provides excellent thermal insulation. Students will have an opportunity to closely inspect the dense waterproof fur of a preserved platypus under the microscope.

Invertebrates have many differences but also many similarities. Before our Outreach visit students are encouraged to explore and collect invertebrates from their school grounds, then examine their features under a microscope during the Outreach session. The role of body parts will then be investigated. Students will discover why invertebrates are the most successful and prolific animals on the planet and how they have adapted to occupy practically every ecological niche. While uncovering the world of incredible invertebrates, students will develop a greater appreciation of the life all around them.

Prior Knowledge

No prior knowledge is required.

Key Learning Question

What specific features do animals have that help them to survive in their environment?

Learning Intentions

In this progam students will:

  • Compare and contrast between various features that are observable with the eye and under the microscope
  • Extend their knowledge on structural adaptations
  • Discover the unique features of animals that allow them to breathe, eat, see and move
  • Compare the limbs & wings of various invertebrates and associate these adaptations with how they move and where they live
  • Discover the different body parts and the functions they perform that allow animals to be uniquely adapted to their environment.


Students will:

  • Use microscopes to have a detailed look at scales, feathers, fur and various invertebrates
  • Examine various creatures under a microscope to identify structural adaptations
  • Make inferences, based on their observations under the microscope, regarding the environment in which each animal lives and how it is able to survive in that environment

Victorian Curriculum

Science - Biological sciences

  • Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (VCSSU074)
  • The growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment (VCSSU075)

Science - Questioning and predicting

  • With guidance, pose questions to clarify practical problems or inform a scientific investigation, and predict what the findings of an investigation might be based on previous experiences or general rules (VCSIS082)

Science: Planning and conducting

  • With guidance, plan appropriate investigation types to answer questions or solve problems and use equipment, technologies and materials safely, identifying potential risks (VCSIS083)

Science: Analysing and evaluating

  • Compare data with predictions and use as evidence in developing explanations (VCSIS086)
  • Science: Communicating

  • Communicate ideas and processes using evidence to develop explanations of events and phenomena and to identify simple cause-and-effect relationships (VCSIS088)


Learning Continuum

The following Learning Continuum is a guide for teachers to show the links between the programs Ecolinc offers onsite, online and through outreach. The Learning Continuum can be used to access Ecolinc resources to support the development of units of work.

Ecolinc Learn Online is an online learning management system offering interactive online courses for students and teachers. These courses can be undertaken either as a pre-visit, post-visit or stand-alone. Students are encouraged to do the pre-learning course before coming to Ecolinc for an onsite program.

Outreach programs are conducted by an Ecolinc education officer at your school. They are available to moderately disadvantaged primary schools in the Geelong, Ballarat and western suburbs areas (or within 100km radius from Bacchus Marsh)

Learn Online Pre-program:

☞ Spotlight on survival


☞ Life under the microscope