Find two short hands-on activities designed to teach elementary students about objects at the nanoscale and the technology that allows us to see these objects.

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  • These two hands-on short activities for students in grades 3-5 focus on measurement, scale and proportion (nanoscale and microscale), and nanotechnologies. These brief activities can be used in a classroom setting as well as informal education settings.


    • Students will understand that objects look different at different magnifications.
    • Students will recognize that technology can aid in observing processes too small to be seen with the human eye.



    • Human fingernails grow about one nanometer every second.
    • A single gold atom is about a third of a nanometer in diameter.
    • There are 25,400,000 nanometers in 2.5 centimeters (1 inch).
    • As far back as the 1930s, scientists could view objects at the nanoscale. It wasn’t until the 1980s that new microscope technologies gave scientists the ability to move and alter individual nanoparticles. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    microscope Noun

    instrument used to view very small objects by making them appear larger.

    microscopy Noun

    study, design, and use of microscopes.

    nanoparticle Noun

    material that has an average particle size of 1-100 nanometers.

    nanoscale Noun

    length scale whose relevant unit of measurement is the nanometer (nm), or a billionth of a meter. Also called the nanoscopic scale.

    nanotechnology Noun

    development and study of technological function and devices on a scale of individual atoms and molecules.