Looking for something larger than life that will thrill the entire family this holiday? A tool that is a gateway for magnifying thought, an inspirational device used by poet laureates and Ivy League professors, preschoolers and Ph.D.s, not to mention geek Grinches and Whos?
It fits in the palm of your hand, but has infinite power in its ability to engage. (And it doesn’t have an on-off switch.) It’s a loupe, pronounced LOOP, and it will never cease to amaze you as long as you’re willing to look.
A 5X magnifying loupe and a series of simple questions are at the heart of the The Private Eye Project–a hands-on program that helps develop the essential habits of mind used by successful scientists, writers, artists, inventors, and mathematicians.
I discovered The Private Eye several years ago when I was researching and writing my first books illustrated with electron micrographs. It was thrilling to discover hidden worlds literally at my fingertips (check out the FingerPrint Galleries) without an expensive or complicated microscope. Now, when I visit schools and libraries to introduce the microscopic world through my books, I often hand each kid a loupe. My classroom set has travelled all over the country, and countless kids have begged to keep a loupe for their very own. So, rather than give mine away, I say get one (or two–they’re stackable) of your own.
The World-in-a-Bag is a fabulous gift for all ages. It contains two loupes, seven specimens (natural, such as a starfish leg and a sea urchin, as well as synthetic samples such as orange mesh), and a colorful 14-page spiral bound booklet that outlines the five steps of “looking and thinking by analogy.”
Once you (or your little geek) start looking you won’t be able to stop. That’s when the Collect-it-Yourself Museum comes in handy. This very cool kit contains six large magnifier boxes that can hold all kinds of specimens and treasures (think bugs, crystals, seeds, and Legos), along with a loupe-on-a-lanyard, and a microfiber loupe cleaning cloth.
If you really want to inspire your child, treat yourself, or impress your boss, give the Mini World-in-a-Box. This is a lovely collection of specimens that will please your eyes and excite your mind, especially during the dark days of winter when much of the natural world is asleep under a blanket of snow. I know I will be studying the treacherous slides on the steep sides of ash-gray volcanic mountains (a.k.a. barnacles) the next time writer’s block sets in.
Besides offering loupes and specimens, The Private Eye Project publishes a 200+ page guide by Kerry Ruef, creator and founder of the project, which is filled with activities that cover everything from science, to writing, to math, to multicultural studies. Colorful activity sheets designed for every grade level are great for homeschoolers and teachers who are looking to inject creativity into their lessons.
According to David Melody, Associate Director of the Private Eye Project, teachers and parents consistently report that their children develop creative and critical thinking skills and produce exceptional work while engaged in the Private Eye process. I’m not surprised–through personal experience I have found that the loupe has the power to break cliché thinking and transform my writing. What more could anyone want?