Resource Type
Completion Time
About a week
High school and Up
Justin Moodie
Related Members
camera (1 per student)
map of the city (1 per student)
marker/pen (1 per student)
printing materials (darkroom or computer/software/printer)
computer/handheld digital device & access to the Internet (1 per student)
Earth Science
Physical Science
Earth Formation and Evolution

Organizing Questions:

1) Why is it important to collect large quantities of research data?
2) How can photographing a subject be similar to scientific observation?
3) How can one plot photographic data on a map?


This lesson was written for a Photography I course, to be taught in a lab with access to either a darkroom or computers/printers. The class has already spent ample time getting used to the basics of photography, learning to use their cameras as a creative tool, just as a painter might use a brush. (However, this lesson could easily be modified to work in a non-photography class, by removing the photography aspect and focusing on the observations, data collection, and mapping.)
In this lesson students will learn how to thoroughly document a single subject by shooting numerous photos of that subject from many different perspectives.
By studying the work of seismographic research taking place in Antarctica to study the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains, students will prepare for their own photographic data collection process.


By the end of this lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. take photographs as a tool for scientific observation,
  2. explain why it is important to collect a large sample set of data,
  3. study a single subject by taking photographs from a variety of locations/perspectives, and
  4. use a map to plot collected data.


Students will need to take and print photographs for this lesson. Thus, students will need at least one camera per student and a means by which to print their photographs. If students are using analog cameras, they will need access to a darkroom and all of the technology/chemistry that is involved in the development/printing process. If students are using digital cameras, they will need access a computer lab with photo-editing software, and a printer.


This lesson assumes prior instruction in basic-intermediate use of cameras and a printing process. If students do not yet have the ability to use these tools, comfortably, the foundational instruction could potentially be embedded into this lesson; but an instructor should expect such a lesson to take at least twice as long.
The instructor needs to prepare a slideshow to show the students a scientific process of data collection. Particular emphasis should be placed on a slide, which shows a map of plotted data locations. Any research with data collection from various locations could be used for this example. However, this lesson will be taught using the example of work that is being done in the Transantarctic Mountains to collect seismographic data.


This lesson was designed to be taught in class periods of 80 minutes over 4 class periods (the number of days would vary, depending on the method of printing photos). Some groups of students will be able to work at this pace, but only if they are comfortable with their cameras and the printing process. If not, allowing for 7-10 class periods might be more realistic. Additionally, these 4 class periods do not necessarily have to occur consecutively, but rather could overlap other assignments. This might be a good idea in order to allow students enough time to take quality photographs. This lesson could also be built into a larger unit on photography as it is related to polar sciences.


See attached document.


The primary summative assessment asks each student to:

  1. photograph a single subject in a minimum of 10 different settings,
  2. document their perspective data through a list of journalled notes, written in their sketchbook, about the location and time of each exposure,
  3. print the 3 most successful photographs of their chosen subject.

Following the production of these photographs, students will also evaluate their work based on the aesthetic characteristics we have studied throughout the semester. Formative evaluation will take place, first, through a peer-to-peer critique, and later the instructor will have an opportunity to read through a written reflection about successes and struggles of the concept and process and assess the students more summatively. Students will also be asked to plot the locations of their photographic data on a map, and share their map with the class as a tool for describing how they found the ideal perspective of their subject. Additionally, students will be asked to demonstrate their understanding of data collection and sample sets through their 500-word essay, which describes a single found photograph as a stronger example depiction than 9 other perspectives of the same subject. Formative assessment will take place through the production process, as the instructor has individual conversations with the students about the photos they are taking and printing, and how these artistic products could be improved upon by taking more photos from different perspectives.


Justin Moodie <moodieenterprises [at]>
This lesson was created for the PolarTREC 2013 spring online polar professional development course.



Standards Other

CA State Standards:
Nine Through Twelve-Proficient
Visual and Performing Arts: Visual Arts Content Standards

Develop Perceptual Skills and Visual Arts Vocabulary
1.1 Identify and use the principles of design to discuss, analyze, and write about visual aspects in the environment and in works of art, including their own.
1.2 Describe the principles of design as used in works of art, focusing on dominance and subordination.

Impact of Media Choice
1.4 Analyze and describe how the composition of a work of art is affected by the use of a particular principle of design.

Skills, Processes, Materials, and Tools
2.1 Solve a visual arts problem that involves the effective use of the elements of art and the principles of design.
2.2 Prepare a portfolio of original two-and three-dimensional works of art that reflects refined craftsmanship and technical skills.

Make Informed Judgments
4.4 Articulate the process and rationale for refining and reworking one of their own works of art.
4.5 Employ the conventions of art criticism in writing and speaking about works of art.

Attachment Size
Download Lesson (PDF - 133KB)133.12 KB 133.12 KB
Download Additional Resources Sheet (PDF - 69KB)68.66 KB 68.66 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.