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Pomona College Physics Professor Leads Kids on Adventure in Magnification

David Tanenbaum, a Pomona College physics professor, will introduce 20 kindergarten and first-grade students through the world of magnification on Monday, May 24 (from 10:30-11:45 a.m.) and Thursday, May 28, from 10:30 – 11:45 a.m.

The adventure begins on Tuesday, when Professor Tanenbaum will travel to their world, visiting Sycamore Elementary School (225 W. Eighth Street, Claremont), to lead Caroline Lee’s mixed kindergarten and first-grade class from what they can see with their naked eye (1x) through the changes to every day objects when magnified five times, 200 times and even 100,000 times. The goal explains Tanenbaum “is to show the kids just how exciting, fun, and interesting science can be.”

Tuesday, the kindergartners and first-graders will search their garden for study samples (petals, leaves, dirt, bugs, sticks, etc.) as well as other things they see everyday. “I want to encourage them to explore a bit... I’ll read a bit from a few books to give them some ideas, but I won’t ask them to find specific things,” says Tanenbaum. Then using 5x hand loupes, like to those used by jewelers, they’ll examine their samples from bugs and leaves to the woven fibers in fabric, or paper. “I’ll ask them to describe what they see in the form of an analogy, like ‘the scales on the plant looks like a staircase,’ ‘the paper looks like a bumpy wall,’ or maybe "my finger print looks like the rings of a cut tree.’…I also plan to do a simple exercise in defining the magnification of an object with the video microscope which can magnify things anywhere from 6x to 600x.”

On Thursday, the group of about 20 children will travel to Pomona College’s Millikan Laboratory building too see what some of their samples look like magnified up to 100,000x by the college’s Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope (FE-SEM), which arrived on campus only last month. “I am excited to see what kinds of samples the students will find and to show them how much more detail they can see under the microscope. Microscopy is easy to understand, even at their level.” says Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum normally teaches General Physics, Advanced laboratory, Advanced Physics Lab with Seminar, Introduction to Materials Science, and Physics in Society: A Critical analysis of Energy Policies, to students who are just a bit older.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, offers a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.