Background: In 1665, Englishman Robert Hooke used an early compound microscope to look at a nonliving thin slice of cork, a plant material. Under the microscope, cork seemed to be made of thousands of tiny empty chambers. Hooke called these chambers “cells” because they reminded him of a monastery’s tiny rooms, which were called cells. The term cell is used in biology to this day. Today he know that living cells are not empty chambers, that in fact they contain a huge array of working parts, each with its own function.
In this activity, students are asked to observe a prepared slide of cork and compare a modern slide to a diagram of what Robert Hooke saw in the 1600s. This is a simple, introductory activity to build student skills with the microscope and begin the topic of cells.