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Lesson Plans

Re: Photography at elementary level.

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mark Alexander (Alexander)mamjam)
Mon, 10 Feb 1997 21:59:48 -0500

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Your quote is great! Light is essential to all visual arts and vision. I
think photography is a great way to learn about light, not to mention
learning about time and as another medium for expression. Those who have
experienced the basics of photography are better able to actually
understand what they see. I think the overall objective is to encourage
careful observation, and most of the upper elementary and middle school
kids I know desperately need this!

I teach photography to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade people, in an after school
art club. I like to begin with camera obscura, then photograms and pin hole
photography. Black and white film and 35 mm cameras is the natural next
step. At my new school, camera equipment is a problem, but I hope I'll be
able to arrange something for next year.

The gifted and talented program that my 6th grader is in (not my school) is
doing a photography unit right now. I've been in the school helping set it
up and we had a great motivation set last week, introducing the concept of
light rays, and the absolute importance of light to all vision. We blacked
out the classroom windows and made a room sized camera obscura. The kids
took turns dancing around outside, while classmates watched the reflected
light rays dance upside down on the classroom wall. They learned how light
travels in straight rays. Then we looked at Jan Vermeer's paintings which
some surmise he used a camera obscura to make.

Before using light sensitive materials, we learn the 4 factors necessary to
control light which are common to all forms of photography. They are:
1) THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT [how much water pressure is in the line?]
2) THE OPENING SIZE [how wide is the faucet opened?]
3) THE OPENING TIME [how long is the faucet left open?]
4) THE SENSITIVITY OF THE EMULSION [how much water is needed to fill the cup?]

Even if you have made pinhole cameras before, I suggest:
Morgan & Morgan Publishers, Dobbs Ferry, New York, 1974. It might be hard
to find, but it has been a wonderful resource for me. I was an
artist/photographer before teaching and I took the photographic process
pretty seriously. This book helped me lighten up and reduce the sacred
status the process used to have for me so I could help the kids get into it
and make their own discoveries. I have grown artistically because of this
book. I've been looking for another copy because I lent mine out and I
haven't seen it since. I can't remember who borrowed it, so if you find a
source for another copy, (or you happen to have one with my name inside the
cover) please let me know.

KODAK's web pages have a lot of info about teaching photography:

KODAK also has a great page about making and using pin hole cameras:

Check PINHOLE PHOTOGRAPHY, CAMERA OBSCURA, and other related things on your
browser, and I'm sure you'll fine some good ideas.

Since making pinhole cameras with kids I've been making and using them on
my own. I love the random distortions, selective sharpness, and the paper
negatives of this easy, cheap, and low-tech photographic medium. I mostly
use 3 LB coffee cans to expose paper negatives which are contact printed
into finished work. I also like to incorporate the contact printed paper
negatives into montages of other photographic images.

I recently learned how to make overhead transparencies from photographs on
the school's copy machine, and I'm looking forward to the president's day
long weekend so I can maybe get into the darkroom and print them into some
montages! But now the topic is original getting away from me, so I'll stop

I would love to help, so please let me know if you have any questions. I
also look forward to hearing other responses. This list is full of creative
people who participate with so many cool ideas!

REMEMBER: We don't see THINGS, we see LIGHT reflecting off of things!

Mark Alexander
1-8 art on the cart
Lee H. Kellogg School
Falls Village, CT 06031

At 1:13 PM 2/10/97, B. Schlueter wrote:
>Hello ArtsEd People!
> I am a photographer and a parent. I would like to in some way volunteer my
>time to the local elementary school(s) art teacher(s) and offer to help
>with a photo segment.
> I am getting ready to do my masters work in photo and have worked at the
>high school level in a photo program. I found the students there had a very
>hard time visualizing photos beyond portraiture. Perhaps exposure at an
>earlier age to this sometimes forgotten medium would be appropriate?
> Here is my question. Is fine art photography represented in any way at
>this level of schooling? My memory of elementary art says no, but I am not
>aware of the current styles.
>What are the lessons used, if any?
>Betty Schlueter
>Phoenix, AZ
> What makes photography a strange invention - with unforeseeable
>consequences - is that its primary raw materials are light and time.
> John Berger

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