Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cheap tools for kindergarten (Part 3)

This is an old post, but it fits right in my kindergarten instructional materials series, so I'm tossing it in, slightly modified.

In the olden days, a camera (like a car motor) could be grasped with a little bit of sense and a dollop of curiosity.

Light traveled through a piece of glass, a lens you could screw off the camera. Hold the lens a foot or two away, and the image flipped.

The lens was attached to a box that had a shutter you opened and closed to let in the light. You could vary the time it was open. You could vary how large the opening was.

The light was focused on film, a strip of plastic (originally a wet concoction of cellulose and other stuff to make "dope"), that reacted to the light. High school kids could hang out in dark rooms developing film (and a finer sense of anatomy).

The whole process was tangible. (That the dark room featured a red light added to the, um, tangibility.)

For kicks you could make a shoe box pinhole camera, and take interesting photos with unreal depth of field. Cool and cheap, when cheap was cool.

So what does this have to do with today's savvy kindergarten set?

First, though, all you young'uns who never saw a pinhole camera before need to gather a toilet paper roll, a piece of waxed paper, a piece of aluminum foil, and a couple of rubber bands.

(No, you can't do this get to use all 10 fingers for this. That's a pun, son....)

Put a small hole in the foil, attach it to one end of the tube, with the hole centered. Fold the waxed paper over the other end. Yep, use the rubber bands to hold it all together.

Point the aluminum side at a bright light source, focus on the waxed paper screen, and tell me what you see. Move it around a bit, what happens?

[OK, for those who cannot help themselves, I'll save you the trip to Google--you will see an upside-down image that moves oppositee to the direction you move the camera.]

That's the observation, now here's the question--how can an image flip if there are no lenses? What can you infer about the property of light (at least here in our Newtonian sensate universe)?

And I will leave this open for now....

An oatmeal box with a translucent lid works even better! Just put a pinhole in the bottom.


Anonymous said...

I love all these. When my kids were small, "Beakman's World" tv show was a great resource for science toys. I particularly like the can that comes back to you, but every show had one item that a kid could do from stuff at home, and it would lead to more questions. The advantage of the tv program was that the kids could see the demonstration, so they wanted to make their own to test whether it really worked like on tv. (How did they become so skeptical? I have no idea.)Anyway, there are lots of these on youtube now.

doyle said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your kind words,

There is an advantage to seeing demos on television, but there's also something to letting kids fart around.

There's some literature supporting the Farting Around Reveals Truths (FART) school of thought.

You may have inspired another post....