Some frequently asked questions:
What should I say when I
want to use The Private Eye and the loupes and the students
say "We've done this before"?
There's a whole batch of answers, for instance
start at a higher level! or: "Good, you can help the
others since you've got some background." or: "What
small change can you think of to make the project/subject
slightly different? or: "You've looked at worms but
not THESE worms!" You've drawn leaves, but not THESE
leaves." and "YOU'VE changed. You're smarter
now than before."
Like a pencil
and paper, we'll use The Private Eye all through school,
high school and college and even as adults. Like microscopes,
we'll use it again and again. Like other things you repeat:
recess, birthdays, books, videos, ball games - we'll enjoy
The Private Eye again and again.
Ah, but you
did that in 1st grade with your 1st grade eyes. Now you've
got 2nd grade eyes and can see more.
Now you've got a 7th grade brain or a 12th
grade brain and can think better. What if we teachers stopped
every time the class said, "We've done that before!" Oh,
I think you'd have a 2nd grade brain in an adult's body.
Remember, a 2nd grader sees four things and thinks
"that's all there is." A 6th grader sees eight
things and thinks "that's all." A 12th grader,
who should be smart by now, may see ten things and mistakenly
think "that's all". If it were true, there'd be
no need for college. There'd be no need for professional
scientists, or artists, or writers. Everything would be done
by the 2nd grade, by that logic!
me what you already know - about ants, leaves, worms, pond
critters, flowers' reproductive systems, growth and form,
etc. - and we'll start from there! (Invariably even high
school students recall very little of a subject they think
already. If it were enough to study worms in 2nd grade
or 8th, when the college Zoology professor says, "Now
we're going to study worms." - at that moment, does
the college student raise her hand and say, "Excuse
me, but I've already studied worms. What else have you
got?" or in Art School when the instructor says
"We're going to sketch a tree, outside today." -
does the adult art student say, "Oh, I've already
done trees in 2nd grade, in 5th and also in 8th. What else
have you got?"
is as individual as his/her fingerprint, as is each lesson
a particular teacher invents or composes. For example,
artist Andy Rosane re-applied the fingerprint lesson into
block printing (See The Private Eye Newsletter, Spring
1997). Further, each student can ask: How can I change
this a little to make it new? (Just changing one ingredient
in a "recipe"
can change the whole flavor. E.g., after students write
an analogy list, cut out the "it reminds me of" or "it
looks like" and instead start the poem with the phrase "I
- Use the phrase perhaps three times in a ten line piece.
If you're using
The Private Eye in a "Science" segment: You looked
at an ant last year? Last week? We'll look again because
this is "Science," and scientists who study ants
(or leaves or pods or flowers or pond critters...) look
at them thousands of times in their career. I want you
to at least look at an ant 12X or 24X so you'll have some
sense of how much you can see if you look again and again
at something. By the way, is this the same ant? Has the
ant changed? Have you changed?
If you're using
The Private Eye in an "Art" segment: You looked
at an ant last year? Last week? We'll look again because
this is "Art," and artists look at ants or leaves
or trees or flowers or faces thousands of times and do
many paintings (or rugs or pottery designs or etchings...)
of the same subject. An artists always looks for some new
detail, some new light or shadow, some new way of seeing
the subject- that she/he missed before. Turns it around,
upside down, backwards. Draw it from a new angle. Draw
it in blue this time, or red tones. Draw it huge. Draw
it thin. Draw it on the computer this time. Use watercolor
this time. Or clay. I want you to at least look at an ant
12X or 24X and consider 24 ways of presenting an ant -
so you'll have some sense of being a real artist. By the
way, is this the same ant? leaf? dragonfly? Has it changed?
Have you changed? (...so that you might see with more mature
If you're using
The Private Eye in a "Math" segment: You looked
at this last year? Last week? We'll look again because
this is "Math," and professional mathematicians
look at the shapes and patterns in leaves or trees or ants
thousands of times and look for their geometry, for the
way they'd explain the thing in algebra or trig. Real mathematicians
dream up mathematical questions over and over for a subject.
An ant is a great subject, whether it's a preserved ant,
therefore holding still for your study, or a moving ant.
A mathematician always looks for some new detail, some
new angle of light or shadow, some new thrust or curve
or spiral - some new way of seeing the subject and its
relationships internally and when compared to others. Turns
it around, upside down, backwards - to see its patterns,
relationships of size and texture and spin and angle. I
want you to at least look at an ant 12X or 24X - and turn
it into mathematical questions, observations (and ask "What
else does it remind me of in mathematics?" - so you'll
have some sense of being a real mathematician. By the way,
is this the same ant? (or leaf? dragonfly? or?)
If you're using
The Private Eye in a "Literature" segment: You
looked at this ant last year? Last week? We'll look again
because this is "Literature," and professional
writers and readers look and look again and write and write
again about the same thing until they get it right. Until
they have captured something in such an unusual way that
the writer/reader thinks he/she has never seen or understood
an ant until that very moment! Like a writer, you go on
writing - until you feel as if a flower bloomed inside
you as you ask and write: "What else does it reminds
Like a scientist, an artist, a mathematician, a writer
always looks for some new detail, some new light or shadow,
some new way of seeing the subject, of feeling the subject.
Turns it around, upside down, backwards and draws it, describes
it. What else does it remind me of this time? What else
does it remind me of in sports? in my bedroom? among my
classmates? in other stories I've read? in ballet? in my
lunch kit? when I was small? etc. I want you to at least
look at an ant 12X or 24X while you're in school so you'll
have some sense of being a real adult writer, reader. By
the way, is this the same ant? leaf? dragonfly?
"Genius is the
capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees
one." - Ezra Pound
A longer introduction to using The Private
Eye in a "Literature"
segment, as springboard to an additional sample writing
Today we're going to use The Private Eye
approach as a starting point for an advanced writing lesson.
We're going to imitate the respected Montana short story
writer, David Long*, in two respects.
Part 1) "I am interested in the texture
of life," Long admits. "I try to fill the stories
with a lot of physical details, a lot of smells and surfaces,
try to make the moment as full as I can."
So, for this assignment I want you to choose
something you've collected or something from The World in
a Box or from the class collection. Write your list of 10-15
things it reminds you of as you loupe-study it. This time
include: "What else does it remind me of also in "my
feelings?" in movement? in dance? in sports? in my room?
on the mesa? etc. Stretch!
Part 2) David Long says "I try to find
the moments in ordinary lives where we have to make choices,
where we hit turning points."
The object you've just written about is going
to appear in a short, short story you'll write... even though
right now you've no idea how it'll figure into a story because
you don't have a story yet. Reread your list, re-look at
your subject and ask: Has this object ever appeared in your
life that you can recall? Is there any scene out of your
life in which you are alone OR with one other or with a group
- where a small turning point happened - in the way you understood
yourself? - in the way you understood, suddenly, someone
else? or even a group? This will be fiction but it can be
based on some experience you've had or wish you'd had or
fear you will have. First just write some notes on how this
object could appear at the edge - or in the middle - of a
conflict or a realization - or even how it might have a role
in the turning point, in the insight. E.g.: While you're
listening to someone you notice you have stepped on a blade
of grass that stands up straight again after you move your
foot. Then zoom in on the blade of grass for a few sentences.
Then back to the turning point you are experiencing with
this other person and within yourself. You can begin your
1st draft today.
*Source: "Not Just Another Montana Writer: David
Long", by Frank D. Miele, Poets & Writers
Magazine, May/June 1997, pp. 40-43.)
If you're using
The Private Eye in a "History or Social Sciences or
Geography" segment: You may have used it in Science
or Literature or Math or Art before. When you use it here
it involves all the above - to help understand social or
psychological issues - issues of place and culture. We'll
use The Private Eye to look at a subject - like an ant
- to understand it for itself, and to understand yourself
and the group you live among and make analogies to other
groups and individuals.
How do I clean my loupe?
To clean your loupes, use a soft cotton cloth,
piece of chamois, or lens tissue. Do not use facial tissues
or paper toweling as these may scratch the lens. You can
rinse a loupe in water, if, say, you've been outside on fieldwork
and have dropped your loupe. You don't want to rub dirt grains
into your lens. (Of course, if you use a Loupe-Lanyard, this is less likely to happen.) Do NOT use rubbing
alcohol on the lens, however, as this may cause clouding
of the lens over time. A safe method of cleaning the entire
loupe, if you like, is to rinse it in a solution of warm
soapy water, then a clear rinse. Or you can rinse it in warm
water and chlorine bleach at a ratio of one part
bleach to ten parts water. The loupe can then be air-dried
or patted dry with a cotton cloth. Most teachers give a simple
lesson on loupe care when they introduce the loupe as a life-long
tool. Some teachers add a small square of flannel to the
loupe bag so kids can polish their loupe(s).
Generally all you'll need to do is polish
off finger smudges from the lens.
What is the pond box (seen at the workshops)
and what are those critters inside the box?
The Pond Box, or Clear Acrylic Box "C" (1"x
2"x 3/4") on the materials page, is the only box we know of that is virtually
leak-proof for observing salt or fresh water organisms under
the loupe or microscope. To insure an effective seal, however,
you must keep the lip of the box bottom and the lip of the
box lid DRY. Any drop of water on the lip allows a pathway
for a leak. The secret is to fill the boxes by using an eye
dropper to move "pond" water and critters from
a holding cup into the "pond box." Don't top off
the box with too much liquid. We usually fill box so water
is almost level with the top of the bottom box rather than
mounding the water. This allows an air bubble for the critters
inside. Too big a bubble in the box can be distracting to
the eye. If a drop of water gets on the lip, we usually dab
it off with a Q-tip or tissue. As with the loupe, use a soft
cotton cloth to dry the box. (Of course you can use this
box for dry specimens as well.)
THE CRITTERS in our workshops and conferences
Daphnia, Ostracods, sometimes also copepods and blood
worms. We collect them from lakes and rivers. You can also
order them from biological catalogues, which we do during
winter if our supplies are down
What about eye strain when using the loupe?
Eye strain is rarely a problem for the K-16
age bracket. When you're a kid or even a young adult, the
lenses in your eyes are flexible, like the rest of your body.
(The lens in your eye has to flex to change focal distances.)
But, when you're somewhere around 40, the lenses in your
eye may become less flexible (like the rest of your body)
and so you may feel a strain as your eye tries to shift its
focus through a loupe. Most of the teachers in our workshops
never experience any eye strain. For those who do, we notice
that many seem to acclimate during the day and are comfortable
after their eyes get "the hang of it" (like any
exercise!). For those whose eyes don't acclimate, yet love
what The Private Eye does for their students: Just close
your eyes as you model use of the loupe!
Teachers tell us that maybe one out of a
100 or 200 students will experience any strain. Some students
may take a little time to "acclimate"
to the change in magnification, and then be fine. For the
few who feel strain, an instructor need only say, "Use
it for as long as it feels comfortable." Remember: young
eyes are very athletic and resilient.
How do I best introduce the jeweler's
loupe to Kindergarten and First Grade?
Always use the tip on page 22 of The
Private Eye. Most Kindergartners do need an
introductory step before using the eye loupe: they need
an introduction to the CONCEPT of "blurry" vs "clear" or "in-focus"/"out-of-focus."
The best way to convey the clarity and sharpness associated
with focus is to place an image on an overhead projector
or slide projector (e.g. a close-up photo of a baby's face)
and move it in and out of focus until kids can verbally recognize
which is "in focus"
and which is "out-of-focus". It may also be a good
idea to make sure that the younger ones really understand
about holding the loupe right up against their eye.
Its a great idea to team kindergartners with
older students (e.g., 4th or 5th graders already familiar
with The Private Eye - who can act as mentors; or parent
volunteers who can transcribe what the younger ones are narrating
as they loupe-travel). You can also use a tape recorder at
a learning station for one or two students at a time... then
transcribe their oral answers to the question: "What
else does it remind me of? Look like?" as they loupe-explore
an object. After their words are transcribed... this becomes
their Private Eye reading book.
For more information, please see our newly available booklet:
Pre-Kindergarteners to The Private Eye.