We met with Mirjami Loikala, an inspiring young middle school class teacher from Turku, Finland, to discuss about her recent Camera obscura school lesson using the Bonfoton devices.
Hi Mirjami, could you tell me a bit about your background as a teacher?
I graduated as a class teacher in 2020, so relatively recently. However, the school world was familiar to me before my master of education studies at the University of Turku, as I have worked as a classroom assistant. I currently work as a resource teacher in comprehensive school, meaning that I teach middle school with grades 7 to 9 and lower classes from grades 1 to 6.
Both the upside-down and the right-side-up Camera obscura images are seen projected on a semi-transparent canvas backside.
What do you enjoy the most in your work as a teacher?
The best aspect of my work as a teacher, of course, are the kids and the young, and that I can do my best every day for their well-being and help them to learn something new! It is also wonderful to witness situations where you can see the kids being genuinely interested in the subject and observe them succeeding and feeling confident that they have learned something new.
School children are enjoying the Camera obscura phenomenon.
You just held a Camera obscura lesson for children in grades 1 to 6. What did you think about it? How about the kids?
I feel the Camera obscura class was a great success and especially well suited for the multidisciplinary learning courses within the school system. Multidisciplinary learning aims to break barriers dividing classical subjects by, for example, observing a specific phenomenon in-depth. Things related to optics are taught in subjects such as visual arts when learning about photography and in physic and biology when studying the human sense of sight. In a class like this, it is possible to combine all these subjects and truly try to develop a holistic understanding of the properties of light behind the workings of different devices (such as cameras) and human vision.
Before entering the Camera obscura room, I held a short recap for the older students (grades 4-6) about the workings of the eye, the modern camera, and optics in general. It soon became clear that the kids had not fully understood, by just reading from a book, that all we see is light and that the eye is a light-sensing organ. After experiencing the Camera obscura, I hope that the knowledge has now been stored in the children's memories and truly understood on some level too.
A before and after image from the Camera obscura room. Both upside-down and upright Camera obscura image seen.
As an educator, I most enjoy situations where the children can marvel and be astonished by the world. I believe this to be one of the most critical steps in developing their inner motivation to learn and research the world around us. The Camera obscura truly fulfilled this idea!
When I turned off the lights from the Camera obscura room, and the outside world flooded the room, at best, the students laughed out loud from joy. Others stayed silent and just gazed at the image projected on the walls. The first graders could not stop doing somersaults and standing on their hands because they were so excited. This, I believe, is what learning can be at its best.
Was setting up the Camera obscura class easy?
It depends on the school's facilities. Covering a small room window with aluminum foil doesn't take that much effort, though. However, the room I had available for the class was a storage space with lots of school supplies, so it took a bit more work. On the other hand, having the children participate in constructing the Camera obscura room could be part of the learning experience.
I also put up a comment board in the Camera obscura room so the children could write their thoughts on it.
The comment board from the Camera Obscura room wall.
And, one fourth-grade class was given these two questions to answer after visiting the Camera obscura room.
- What thoughts did the camera obscura room evoke in you?
- What would you like to do in a camera obscura room?
9 out of 24 children said they would like to sleep in a Camera obscura room
Here's a couple of comments from the children:
"It was weird and wonderful because the trees swayed and it was so sharp."
"You don't always need electricity."
"Like I was in another person's eye."
"You could play that you are in heaven."
"One could make beautiful art in the room."
"I could design."
"I got the feeling that I was inside a camera."
"I could go in front on the canvas and became a tree."
"It was calming"
Nine out of twenty-four children said they would like to sleep inside a Camera obscura room, and six out of the lot wrote they were amazed by the phenomenon.
Would you say that the Camera obscura experience is best suited to a specific student age group?
No, not really. In my lessons, I had children ranging from the first to the sixth grade. I feel that this kind of learning situation can strengthen the natural child-like wondering and enthusiasm to explore the world for the youngest students.
For the older students, you can also introduce the theory behind the Camera obscura phenomenon. This way, the theory will have the first-hand experience to back it up and won't be as disconnected from the rest of the world.
One of the answer papers. "How is it possible that so big an image can come from such a small hole?"
The Camera obscura effect can be created by just using a small hole. Do you think using a lens is beneficial?
Using a lens was surprisingly helpful. Actually, I did not expect that it would enhance the image as much as it did. A benefit from using a lens is that making a Camera obscura is not so weather dependent because it will work on cloudy days too. This is a clear benefit for schools, as lessons cannot be held solely when the weather is good, and you must stick to the timetable. The lens also improved the image colors and details significantly.
The Camera obscura devices at work. BonfotonUP device on top (with a piece of cardboard to block the light from the lens under it), lens below and a small dime size hole on the right.
What about theBonfotonUP device's right-side-up Camera obscura image? What kind of thoughts did it evoke?
For me, the upright Camera obscura image felt, for some reason, even stranger than the upside-down image seen in the room. But the children had a second round of laughs after I switched the upside-down image to the right-side-up image. I had the lens and the device fastened to the window on top of each other.
I'd say the BonfotonUP device would be an excellent tool for a physics class in high school with the possibility to visualize the theory behind the phenomenon.
Right-side-up Camera obscura image seen projected on a semi-transparent canvas background.
Would you recommend doing a Camera obscura class using optical devices for other teachers, and what subject teachers at that?
Absolutely, and to any teachers interested in the subject. Creating a Camera obscura could be well incorporated with visual arts, biology, and physics. And also to multidisciplinary learning courses.
The children are holding a wooden board as a Camera obscura image frame.
Do you see some other use for the Camera obscura than a school class? For example, would you use it at home?
I've explored a variety of arts in the past. The Camera obscura inspired me and gave me many ideas for other art projects that I will try out over my summer vacation!
Both the upside-down and right-side-up Camera obscura images are seen projected on a semi-transparent canvas background.