The Explorers Club: From Mountains to Mites

Visit an undiscovered country in your own backyard!


String or rope 10 meters long
Meter stick
Small clear ruler with mm gradation
10x jewelers loupe
Dissecting microscope (30x or greater) (optional)
Note pad, journal, etc. for each participant
Pencils and drawing paraphernalia


Ages 5 to retired. Works well in urban and rural settings, any time of year, with participants of multiple ages, abilities, and skill levels.


Seek out, sketch (don’t photograph), list, and ID items at each of the scales below. Start with the biggest and work your way down.

  1. Decameters (10+ meters)
  2. Meters (1–10)
  3. Decimeters (10 cm–1 meter)
  4. Centimeters (1–10 cm)
  5. Millimeters (1–10 mm)
  6. Micrometer!

The activity can be done in groups or by individuals, and it is size/time flexible. For example, if only an hour is available, each participant could be asked to find 2–3 items at each scale. If 6 1-hour meetings are available, each participant could be asked to first find 10 items at the decameter-scale during the first meeting, 15 at the meter-scale during the second meeting, etc. If the exercise is long term and participants are independent the number of items could be increased greatly: 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 50. In this case certificates could be awarded at each level. For example a participant who completes the centimeter-scale could be inducted into the “Centimeter Circle” and be awarded a 10x jewelers loupe to help with the millimeter scale search. Those that become a “Millimeter Master” are awarded a microscope. Don’t make it too easy, there is virtue is completing a monumental task.

As items are discovered they can be discussed. Is the item alive: a plant, animal, or fungus? Is the item abiotic: a geographic formation, a river, a building, a lake? How do the big things affect the smaller things, and vice versa?

The overall lesson/point of the activity is help participants appreciate small things. Exploration is taking place, not by traveling to a different land, but by visiting the small spaces in this one.


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