Ray L. Taylor
Oak Harbor Junior High School, Oak Harbor, Washington
"One student was overheard to say, 'Gee, those planets really
are out there, aren't they!' That made the entire project worthwhile."
Purpose and Description of Project
In this ninth-grade science elective course, Ray Taylor combined
photography and astronomy so that students learned photographic
skills, gained an awareness of photography as a scientific tool,
and gained an expanded understanding of Earth as a planet and
its relationship to other celestial bodies. The resulting pictures,
taken with a
and a telescope in conjunction, include shots
of the sun with sunspots, the moon during several of its phases,
and planets Mars and Saturn.
During the project, reports Taylor, the students became masterful
photographers and adept at processing their own film, making contact
sheets, and producing prints. In fact, they became so involved
in their new-found skills that they started using cameras in other
areas to record field trips, athletic events, social activities,
and day-to-day doings around the school. They also learned about
astronomy, but Taylor says that one outcome he did not expect
was their "wonderment." "Once an object was sighted,"
he explains, "many students were in an obvious hurry to get
it photographed so they could show others that it really existed."
All in all, the teacher says he "has never been so excited
or involved in any particular project in all of my 27 years in
the classroom!" And the project has also made an impact on
the school as a whole, causing so much student interest that an
additional section of ninth-grade science-including "Celestial
Photography"-was added to the following year's schedule.
Activities during this program were placed by Taylor into three
sections: "lights," "camera," and "action."
- In "lights," the students learned about the 35 mm
single reflex camera, its nomenclature, accessories and functions.
They also became familiar with the Celestron-8 reflecting telescope
and its operation in conjunction with the camera.
- In "camera," students were introduced to the techniques
involved in processing black-and-white film and making prints.
This included loading a negative loading tank (by sight, blindfolded,
and in total darkness), mixing chemicals from developer to fixer,
producing contact prints, and making enlargements.
- In "action," the students combined what they had
learned in taking both day and night photographs of the sun, moon,
and planets, as they focused on various phases and configurations
of these bodies. They also kept log books on their activities.
Materials, Resources, and Expenses
Taylor and his students were aided by English and other science
teachers in writing about their activities and gathering details
about celestial mechanics and characteristics.
Equipment and facilities used included a darkroom, developing
tanks, KODAK HC-110 Developer, KODAK DEKTOL Developer, stop bath, rapid fixer,
photo-flo, plastic tubs, thermometers, safelight, tongs, photographic
enlarger, film, positive paper, 35 mm single reflex cameras, telescope with solar
filter, and log books.
He notes that telescopes without camera attachment equipment can
be used by "placing the lens of the camera at the focal point
behind the ocular of the telescope."
Outcomes and Adaptability
Taylor reports that his students became enthralled with photography.
They were impressed with the wonders to be found in the sky, and
developed the skills to permanently record their sightings. They
also learned to work together and came to appreciate patience
since "film and prints just can't be hurried." The students
enthusiasm is demonstrated by the fact that, although they will
be moving to another building for their sophomore year, they've
asked if they can come back for the photographing of Halley's
The sky being equally available to all of us, there is obviously
no problem in implementation of a similar project in any school