Often used as a learning tool for children or as a guide for professional health workers, prepared microscope slides save users time, especially when the purpose of viewing is simply to offer an idea of what a specific specimen should look like under the microscope. There are thousands of kits available for sale, packed with nearly every kind of prepared microscope slide one could imagine.
With instruction, observers could mount and create their own specimen slides. However there are numerous indisputable benefits to selecting Prepared Microscope Slides rather than creating them individually in the lab. Prepared microscope slides save time, resources, and energy in a number of important ways.
Reason 1: Preparing Microscope Slides is Complex and Tedious
Though learning to prepare and read a slide beneath a Microscopes is an important task for students interested in healthcare or science, it probably does not have a lot of real world implications for the average high school or college student. More often than not, in educational or institutional settings, the purpose of a slide is simply to provide a visual aid. In a classroom, interested children may look at the slide and take notes regarding their findings. At home, children can use the slides to learn about the makeup of various organisms. In the lab, a nurse may use a prepared slide to verify bloodwork findings.
For many individuals, going through the trouble of preparing slides for visual aids would be both unnecessary and inefficient. For students and casual observers, learning the different mounts necessary to prepare a slide may be unnecessary and time consuming.
Types of Slide Mounting
Before viewing a specimen under a microscope it must be carefully applied to a glass slide using specific guidelines. This process, often referred to as mounting, is typically done in one of five different ways. To get a good view, the person performing the experiment must know what type of mounting process to use and carefully execute the process of preparing the slide.
Wet mounts are considered to be one of the more complicated types of slide preparation, primarily due to the multiple steps required for an accurate reading. Wet mounting is primarily used for aquatic samples and living organisms.
To create a wet mount, the observer must first release a single drop of liquid in the center of the slide. The sample is then carefully positioned in the liquid center with a set of tweezers. The slide is then held at an angle while the observer slowly places the cover over the specimen, carefully avoiding air bubbles. Excess water, which spill around the slide cover, should be carefully removed.
A dry mount is the most basic type of slide mounting. It is typically used for inorganic or non-living specimens. Dry mounts are used for examining hair, feathers, dust, and some airborne particles. To prepare a dry mount, the examiner simply adds a small piece of the specimen in the center section of a dry slide and then covers it with a slide cover; a small, thin square of glass that protects the specimen and keeps it in place.
Smear slides are primarily used for wet specimens, especially blood and slime. Typically, the liquid is piped onto one slide with a pipette and then smeared across the original slide using another slide as a tool. Excess liquid is removed. The newly smeared specimen is then carefully sandwiched between the slide and slide cover (no air bubble should remain). Finally, the slide must be left to dry in an environment that offers a moderate, steady temperature prior to observation.
Staining preparation may be used for both living and nonliving specimens. The purpose of staining a slide is to create a contrast, making structural differences in the organism more evident. Common solutions used to create the contrast include iodine, methylene blue, and crystal violet.
The simplest staining process involves taking an already prepared slide and placing a drop of the staining agent on one end of the slide cover. The liquid then seeps beneath the cover and is allowed to gently pull across the specimen. Excess liquid is collected on the alternate end of the slide with a paper towel.
Squash slides are used for examining soft substances. To create a squash slide, the examiner must first prepare a wet mount. The wet mount is then placed under the lens of the microscope and the examiner lowers the lens just enough to squash the sample, but not enough to destroy it or break the slide. Excess water should be carefully removed from around the slide afterwards.
Reason 2: Prepared Microscope Slides Often Include Multiple Slides with the Same Subject
Consumers can often find prepared microscope slides for sale in a kit, with several slides featuring the same subject or a related group of subjects. This is perfect for educational settings, where several students or groups of students are looking at a single slide and recording their findings. These slides are carefully and professionally prepared, so that the subject trapped beneath the glass is virtually identical to all others in the set. This helps to prevent variations that may muddle the point of the lecture.
Slide kits of this type may also be useful as reference tools in laboratories. After all, it is always nice to have an example around for verifying findings during an experiment or before diagnosing a patient.
Reason 3: Prepared Microscope Slides Provide Quick, Easy Visual Aids
Parents, teachers, and other individuals who simply want to provide an example of what another person is to find, describe, or identify may use previously prepared slides to give a quick, easy visual aid. This method ensures that the person looking at the slide is seeing exactly what is intended and cuts down on confusion. Risk of contamination or altering what is seen beneath the slide is rare. Prepared slides are by far the quickest, easiest route for preparing simple visual aids.
Reason 4: Slides that are Already Prepared Make it Easier to Present a Concept to Young Children
Young children who are showing a budding interest in science often ask for a microscope before they are really ready to grasp all the necessary steps to finding and preparing specimens for review. Parents, as well as teachers, may use prepared slides to provide an introduction to using the microscope without having to invest nearly as much supervision or time, as would be required if the children were collecting and mounting their own specimens. Once the student has learned how to use the microscope to read a slide, using hands on manipulatives, including a variety of prepared slides, learning mounting processes is easier.
Risk of Contamination
Care must be executed when preparing a slide for viewing under a microscope. Accidentally touching the specimen or the visible parts of the slide can contaminate the slide, altering what is seen. Small children may accidentally transfer fingerprints, tiny organisms, or skin cells to the slide when attempting to work with a non-prepared slide for the first time, changing what they view under the microscope substantially and disrupting or confusing the learning process.
Reason 5: Already Prepared Microscope Slides Save Time and Resources
Simple slides of saliva, blood, hair, or fingernails may be easy enough to find, but more complicated specimens can be such a challenge that it is actually more affordable to purchase slides that are already prepared with said specimen.
In fact, some specimens may not even be available in the area or during a particular season, complicating matters even further. Ordering a prepared set of slides, of a specific specimen, ensures that the consumer receives several examples of the necessary subject, already mounted and ready to go under the microscope.
Reason 6: Prepared Microscope Slides are Professionally Created to Ensure a Good Specimen
Whereas individually selected and prepared slides vary substantially from one person to another within a large group, already prepared microscope slides are made with strict guidelines to ensure high quality. Professionally prepared microscope slides are then checked for certain criteria. This way, the consumer can be sure that slides are clear, effective, and demonstrate exactly what needs to be seen for an accurate observation to be made.
Reason 7: The Prepared Microscope Slide Kit May Offer Greater Specimen Variety than One's Natural Environment
When microscope slides are prepared by individuals, especially in a classroom setting, the resources for specimens are very limited. Students and teachers are restricted to what is available within their community at the given time of year, and often stuck with what can be found already on campus. Though this may work for some experiments, it greatly limits the variety in some areas of scientific study. Thankfully, prepared microscope slides are nearly unlimited, making it possible for consumers to obtain good, clear specimens of nearly any kind.
Educators, parents, and others commonly purchase prepared microscope slides for use as visual aids or to teach proper microscope use. Slide preparation often amounts to a complicated, tedious task. Having professionally prepared slides containing relevant specimens on hand in the lab can save a good deal of time and effort. Though learning to create and prepare slides is an important subject for scientists and healthcare professionals, it is important to first learn what to look for and how to use the microscope properly. Prepared slides can be used for these reasons.
Prepared slides may also be used as a comparison tool when identifying or observing certain specimens. Additionally, prepared slides may help to increase the options available to a group, expanding far beyond one's local community or environment. A variety of slide kits are available, with many exotic, rare, and hard-to-find specimens clearly preserved for viewing. These slides offer a competent teaching method and help to give students and professionals a good visual aid for related, future experiments.