NYMS Outreach Initiative


During 2014 NYMS is participating in two Central Park Conservancy events, first the  springtime “On A Wing” afternoon at the Belvedere Castle, and second the June 28 “Fishing” afternoon at the Learning Center, Haarlem Meer.


NYMS Kicks off the 2010 Spring Season by Presenting Two Outreach Events at the 33rd Annual SCONYC Conference NYMS, the newest member organization of the Science Council of New York City (SCONYC), presented two hands-on workshop labs in addition to being, for the third year, a Convention Exhibitor at held April 24th at Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY. Peter Diaczuk presented “Forensic Microscopy – Use of the Microscope in Trace Evidence Analysis.” Thanks to support from Stuyvesant’s Science Department, every attendee at this workshop had a microscope to use in a laboratory setting. Later Guy de Baere was assisted by Jean Portell in presenting “Myths and Facts on How to Use a Light Microscope – Achieving Science Literacy”for educators and student educators determined to make learning science in their classrooms a fun activity. In all 20 people attended these sessions. Here is a sample of comments handed in by attendees:

“Thanks for the technique for preserving live animals on slides. Any microscopy techniques are appreciated!” from a middle and high school teacher. Another wrote, “This workshop was very informative and complete with hands on demonstration.” A student teacher said, “Wonderfully enthusiastic moderators! Very informative regarding different techniques in the use of the microscope.” Others asked us to “Please include more hands-on activities next time”

During these events, Roland (Bob) Mansour took charge of the NYMS Exhibition, enthusiastically offering information about the Society to everyone who stopped by. Some visitors seemed keen to join NYMS and perhaps will. To know more about SCONYC please see http://www.sconyc-ny.org

At the close of the SCONYC event, Jean and Guy rushed to the outdoor EarthFair next to Grand Central Terminal, and set up the NYMS banner and cordless microscopes next to Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler’s Bio-Bus for the last hour of that all-day event. NYMS attracted an appreciative
audience there, too.

-Guy de Baere


Everyone of us has their own reasons to be thankful for microscopy. In my case it has provided me with both a way to make a living as well as a fascinating hobby. After 50 years I will not forget being lost looking through a stereo microscope at a tiny grasshopper on a leaf when unexpectedly he came alive. At that moment it was me who did the hopping. Like Alice in Wonderland I had become small and the grasshopper had grown to menacing size. No television experience will ever duplicate the immediacy of watching the small world coming alive through the microscope.

Sometimes I wonder what motivated our generous benefactor, Barry Nathanson, (NYMS President 1954) to will his fortune to NYMS; Surely, there is no lack of noble causes that are starved for cash? Perhaps it is vivid memories of happy hours spent over the microscope that he likes young people to have a chance to experience as he did?

If this is so, then we have to take our task of promoting microscopy very seriously and, looking at the courses we teach etc, I think we do. Now we have an additional, exciting opportunity. Jean Portell has systematically been reaching out to get groups of youngsters to experience the excitement of microscopy, for example by providing workshops at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park. Our budding alliance with Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler is off to a promising start; the pictures and reports below give you a bit of an idea.

NYMS Outreach is the newest department on our website. Please help make it a lasting success. The diversity of interests of our members is a great asset. We need, for example, a collection of interesting samples to be put under the microscopes with documentation of their significance etc. This might be a micro mount of a mineral or egg cases of insects on a leaf. We can collect ideas on these pages and then call a workshop in Clifton to prepare samples. Actually, we might have some fun ourselves arranging for a field trip and collecting aquatic creatures. What do you think?

-Jan Hinsch

The June 13, 2009, BioBlitz at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

When Janice Medina and I registered as a NYMS Group to participate in the June 13, 2009, BioBlitz by hunting for tardigrades in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a World Science Festival Project Manger immediately invited NYMS to lead a section about aquatic microorganisms. We accepted, of course! Guy de Baere signed on as the third instructor, and on the appointed day we set up four cordless compound light microscopes, two little inspection ‘scopes, and a large NYMS banner at the BBG’s Japanese Garden. We also suspended a plush toy water bear and taped several pages illustrating various microorganisms to the Garden structure where we were stationed. We put out books that folks could peruse while waiting to peer though the microscopes. (Especially popular was Nicola Davies’ book, Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth.) Before the first of the afternoon’s four groups of BioBlitz registrants arrived, we prepared microscope slides with durable water cells containing live Tardigrades, Stentors, and Blepharismas, to give visitors an introduction to the microworld. BBG volunteers provided containers of water drawn from the adjacent pond and stream, so BioBlitzers could also prepare water samples to examine for tiny wild creatures. The most popular of these were small larvae of flying insects.

A large portion of the visitors to our station were families. Children and adults alike responded excitedly upon first viewing fantastical creatures that are usually invisible. We witnessed again and again the amazement that peering though a well-made light microscope can provoke. The main difficulty with public events like the BioBlitz is that there is rarely enough time at the microscopes for people whose curiosity for looking through them is aroused. I hope our Society will gradually develop a variety of short courses and workshops for adults and children who yearn for this kind of experience.

-Jean Portell

Washington Square Park – 2009 World Science Festival Street Fair

We have now passed the midpoint of June and if I kept track correctly there was a total of three days without showers, thunder claps, etc. Wisely, one of these was reserved for the June 14, 2009 World Science Festival Street Fair in New York City which was celebrated under the city’s auspices in Washington Square at most pleasing temperatures and partly sunshine.

There must have been at least 50 different demonstrations in the course of the day, from the physics of the soap bubble to robots that chased and collected balls. The BioBus was among the celebrated features of last year’s WSF Street Fair, and Jean Portell had arranged with Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler for NYMS to participate next to it this year. Typically people stand in line for some time to be admitted inside the BioBus, and it seemed a good idea to provide some microscopical entertainment to pass the time in preparation of things to come. To this end an open tent was installed adjacent to the bus with two long tables on which four NYMS microscopes were set up, two of 20x total power for reflected light and two more with 3 objectives for transmitted light. A colleague of Dr. Ben Dubin-Thaler set up a stereo microscope with a video camera attached and a monitor so everyone could follow the many demonstrations of samples that had been prepared beforehand.

Jean had brought living protozoa and, you guessed it, water bears already prepared in micro aquaria. Wiebke’s favorite objects were of botanical origin, such as pollen grains of hibiscus flowers and stained cross sections of wood from redwood trees. To help with explanations we had some illustrations and soon wished we had even more to answer the sometimes penetrating questions of our young audience. Other NYMS members who participated at this event were: Guy de Baere, Janice Medina, and Seymour Perlowitz. Enthusiastic World Science Festival volunteers, easily recognized by their bright red T-shirts, were the other good spirits who helped people with mastering the microscopes. Approximately 125 adults took home a copy of our “About The New York Microscopical Society” flyer.

It was most gratifying to see some of the youngsters get lost in what they saw through the microscope. There is much left for us to do to explore such opportunities and win new friends for microscopy. For example, each of the low power ‘scopes might be accompanied by a wooden tray with subdivisions each holding an object of interest. The possibilities are endless.

-Jan Hinsch

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