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An Integrated Curriculum: Art & Science in 12th Grade Optics

Our Seniors recently completed their Physics Main Lesson Block with a focus on Optics. Topics covered included; virtual and reflected spaces, refraction, diffraction, parallax, color, lenses, shadows, mirages, the rainbow, optical sky phenomena, eye physiology, prisms, lenses, Newton’s and Goethe’s color theories, and phenomenology. Emphasis was placed on an experiential and experimental look at some of the most interesting phenomena in the history of science – those dealing with light in all its manifestations. To better understand this, students built their own pinhole cameras, inspired by the camera obscura which ancient Greeks used to observe phenomena like sunsets, sunrises, and eclipses. The camera obscura, or pinhole camera, processes light in a similar way to the human eye, by projecting the image of an external object onto a screen (retina) inside.

See two student-made cameras below and a diagram that illustrates how the camera works.

Once their cameras were complete, students took photos of our Garden City and New Hampshire campuses. The images below were captured in the back of the pinhole camera using photographic paper (the camera’s retina) and each student developed their own photo negative using a traditional wet chemical process in the darkroom.

The prints were then made by rephotographing the photo negatives and reversing them through digital editing. They were then printed as pigment ink prints on archival paper and displayed in the Breezeway Gallery. From beginning to end this comprehensive educational process provided students with an opportunity to integrate art and science for a fuller picture of the subject that deepened critical thinking, collaboration, project management, and creative skills. Enjoy the results of their efforts below:

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