Week 4: What project could help me integrate my content with making?

One of the ways I could integrate content into making is by using an open-ended student-driven project. (Vanderwerff, 2014)  I spent some time trying to think of a math related project that I could share with you, but could not come up with one that is appropriate for high school level content with short notice, so I am cheating and proposing a project that I have used a few times in my photography class.

A good prompt for a project should have the following three criteria: brevity, ambiguity, and immunity to assessment. (Martinez, 2016)  So, the prompt for my student’s project would be “Make a pinhole camera that you can use to take a photo.”  This is a project that would be introduced at the beginning of the school year.  It is a great project because it is interdisciplinary in nature.  Although it is a project that is assigned in photo class, there is content related to history, math, science, art, and of course photography.  If you can create units that interdisciplinary they have the benefit of helping students apply skills, retrieve information quicker, grow an integrated knowledge base, and increase their depth and breadth of learning.  (Clayton, 2010).

There are eight elements to a good project: purpose and relevance, time, complexity, intensity, connection, access, shareability, and novelty. (Martinez, 2016)  The pinhole camera project definitely has purpose, relevance, and novelty in a photography class.  Making the camera operate properly will take time and be complex, as it takes several trials for the camera to operate without problems.  The elements that make the camera operate correctly include the light tight nature of the material used to make the camera, and the optimal pinhole size to create the image on film/paper based on the distance to the film/paper.  Pinhole cameras can be made from a variety of materials (wood, metal, cardboard, and prefabricated items such as aluminum soda can, oatmeal box, car, and building!)

The building used in this photo is an abandoned F-18 hangar in Irvine, CA.  The image measures 111 feet my 32 feet.  It is called “The Great Picture” (Swartz, 2014)


And here is a link to a video that shows Ian Ruhter making a pinhole camera from a delivery truck!  You can create amazing cameras, all you need is imagination.

I feel this pinhole camera project does and will fulfill the 8 elements of a good project.  The assessment component of this project is technically pass/fail, with the majority of projects being pass, if they work!  If they don’t, the students need to modify their camera so it will operate correctly and take a photo.  The students do learn quite a bit from this project.  As stated, it will incorporate history, math, science, and art working in tandem.  Students learn the history of camera fabrication, which does include the pinhole camera.  The math component includes measurement, calculation, and time.  The science component includes chemistry and physics.  The art component is based on the creativity of materials used to make the camera, and actually photographing a subject with the camera (photography).



Martinez, Sylvia Libow; Stager, Gary S.. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Kindle Location 1364). Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. Kindle Edition.

Vanderwerff, A. (2014). Makers in the Classroom: A How-To Guide. EdSurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-05-14-makers-in-the-classroom-a-how-to-guide

Clayton, M. et al (2010) Designing Multidisciplinary Integrated Curriculum Units. [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.connectedcalifornia.org/downloads/LL_Designing_Curriculum_Units_2010_v5_web.pdf

Swartz, J. (2014). World’s Largest Pinhole Camera takes World’s Largest Photo.  ABC News, Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/05/worlds-largest-pinhole-camera-takes-worlds-largest-photo/



3 thoughts on “Week 4: What project could help me integrate my content with making?

  1. Awesome post, Gerald!

    I’ve heard of pinhole cameras before, but didn’t know how to make one or how they work. Thanks a ton for including the video and the amazing photograph in your post. It intrigued me enough that I did a little more internet research on pinhole cameras. What a great idea, not just for photography class, but for the other subject areas you mentioned as well.

    I like how you discuss teaching students the basics of pinhole cameras — their components and how they work — and then letting them choose the materials with which to make theirs. This definitely keeps novelty alive in the project, as students will choose different materials and then troubleshoot how to make them work. Also, intensity is very likely to occur because students will be in a class in which everyone is making a pinhole camera. Hopefully, they’ll have some ideas of objects they’d like to photograph, which will motivate them to create the best camera possible. Showing them the video and/or other photographs taken with pinhole cameras will also spark their interest. I can also see the math connections you can make, by playing with the different size cameras and figuring out how far to make the film from the pinhole…measurement and statistics!


  2. When they say a photograph is worth a thousand words, I’m not sure they were thinking of a photograph of the magnitude of the one in your post. That is absolutely incredible. In some ways, it leaves me speechless.

    I love the idea of your project. I really like the specificity of the task with the unlimited options for completing it! Sure, there will be those who google a design and build it to spec, but there will be others whose imaginations will soar and whose cameras will be working pieces of art.

    This week at Sitka Fine Arts Camp, an adult photography class was taught by Will Wilson. I was not able to take the class, but I spoke with a friend who did take it and she brought me in to see some of the work. Here is a link to the artist and a project he is working on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8oHn_gBEZk

    What my friend was most excited about was a side project this artist did, which I think would be great to do at any grade level. The artist took a positive Wet Plate Collodion image of his wife holding her violin (obviously, a digital picture could be used here), then used his phone to capture her in the same position, starting to record video moments after he took the still photograph. She played a piece on the violin while remaining in the same location where she was photographed. He then used an app on his phone to recognize the still photo and superimpose the video image over the still so that the still image comes to life when the phone is held up to it. I just heard about this yesterday, so I haven’t had time to find out all of the information, but I think this would be an amazing way to capture biographies or autobiographies, both of community members and students. My mind is buzzing with the potential, so I thought I’d share.


    • Thanks for sharing the Will Wilson video. I viewed it and its amazing. With all my knowledge about photography, I have heard of wet plates, but never have done it, or seen anyone do it. Great video that documents. Old school photography is awesome!


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