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Animal Hair Microscope Slides

Ordering class sets of prepared slides can be pricey. Want a fun and free way to make your own? All you need are some slides, clear tape, and some animal hair samples. Put a few pieces of hair on a slide and carefully cover it with clear tape. A couple tips:

  • Don’t use scotch tape that has a matte finish or you won’t see it very well under the microscope. Make sure it is clear cellophane tape. 
  • Be careful to not leave fingerprints on the tape when handling. 
  • Lighter hair samples are easier to see under the microscope than darker hair samples. If you have the option, go lighter. 
  • With the taped slides, you will get small air bubbles. Make sure to warn the students first, so they don’t end up drawing air bubbles on their lab paper instead of hair (because you know a few will!)
  • I have read online that instead of using tape you can use a cover slip and a dab of super glue or clear nail polish. For me tape was easier, so that’s what I went with. 

When you look at the hair under the microscope you will see that different species have varying medulla patterns in the center of the hair.  I gave my students a couple of samples to look at- human, dog, and cat, and then gave them an “unknown” slide and had them figure out which type of hair they were looking at. If you have students with some fun pets at home (such as a rabbit, ferret, or guinea pig) ask them to bring in a few hairs as well.
(Below: Left image is human hair, Right image is cat hair)

Another way to get some unusual hair samples is by checking with your local game and fish department. In Arizona our Game and Fish department has skull and pelt boxes that they loan to schools for free. I had borrowed the skull box for my ecology unit and had my students compare skulls of different animals. While I had the box, I also plucked a hair or two off the pelts and made prepared slides. It was fun to look at mountain lion, bear, and coyote hair in addition to the everyday pets.  
Have you made prepared slides for specimens other than hair? I’d love to hear about it! Leave it in the comments!

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Hi, I'm Becca!

I help busy science teachers get your prep back by providing you time saving lessons, labs, and resources.

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