Yes, water bears, or tardigrades, are THE most adorable microorganisms I’ve seen. And your students can see them as well, with a relatively inexpensive digital microscope, a steady hand, and a jar of these babies from Carolina Biological Supply. (You can find them outside, most likely on moss, but ordering them was more of a certainty.)
The tardigrade journey for me started with Live Science‘s review of kid microscopes. These scopes can provide some cool images of tardigrades, but what if your students have visual or physical disabilities that prevent them from leaning over a microscope to peer through the lens?
I purchased the Teslong USB microscope from Amazon, which magnifies the little critters up to 200x. Not as clear as the professional image above, but how much fun it is to slowly drag the waterproof scope through algae and find these little critters swimming and eating and pooping! A great plus is the use of a camera app that allows your kiddos to see them full screen. You should try this miniature safari through a watery forest with your kiddos!
Here is a 9 second portion of a video I took with a student. We were totally enthralled. And the science fun continues. Tardigrades are extremely hardy and can survive in a vacuum and even boiling water. Our little jar is now filled with water bear poop (they remind me of guinea pigs), but we still hunt them down for photos and videos. Enjoy!