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Morton Schools Project – Technologies (ages 11–14)

We suggest that these activities would be most suitable for children aged 11–14, but please feel free to explore all the articles in this series.

These activities are inspired by photographs and cameras from our historical collections. We’ve included a selection of relevant images here, but you can view the full gallery. You’re welcome to use any of the images from the gallery as inspiration for these activities.

The times suggested beside each activity are intended to be a guideline; you’re welcome to spend as much time on each activity as you like.

A card with two almost identical black and white photos of three men in kilts standing in front of the Forth Rail Bridge.
Stereocards, like this one of the Forth Rail Bridge from c1900–10, were an early form of 3D image. National Trust for Scotland: Handling Collection

Activity 1

(5–15 minutes)

Have a look at the History of Photography at the National Trust for Scotland gallery. Can you find an example of early 3D viewing? Compare this to modern 3D viewing experiences, such as 3D films or virtual reality technology.

  • Think about differences in the ways 3D technology used to work and how it works today.
  • What sorts of subjects appear on stereocards? What do we view in 3D today?
  • Can you think of any similarities between how people might have experienced 3D images 100 years ago and how they do today?
A black, box-shaped camera made from leather and metal, with a flap folded up to reveal the lens.
This is a type of plate camera, c1928–29. The photos would initially come out as negatives, with the light and dark areas of the photo appearing in reverse. National Trust for Scotland: Canna House

Activity 2

(15–30 minutes)

Using online resources, books and your own knowledge, research the science and technology behind how cameras work. Once you have done your research, do one of the following:

  • Write a short essay explaining the scientific and technological principles behind photography.
  • Draw a diagram illustrating how a camera works.
  • Record yourself giving a short presentation on the history of photography
A black and white photo of a woman sitting on a rocky beach with her boot soles facing us. She holds a camera on her lap.
These negatives would have been developed into black and white prints, like this photo from 1930 of Shaw holding her Graflex camera. National Trust for Scotland: Canna House

Activity 3

(30–60 minutes)

As technology has changed, so have the products we use. For the next set of activities, we’d like you to think about how different technologies have helped to shape our daily lives, and how the design of products has adapted to correspond to this.

Option 1

One of the biggest developments in the last 20 years has been the rise of social media. Photography is integral to how these platforms work. We’re able to take, share and view photos instantly from around the world. Pick one or more social media platforms to research. Try and find out the following:

  • When was it launched?
  • Who launched it?
  • How many users does it have?
  • Who uses it?
  • What is it used for?

Once you’ve done that, design your own social media platform, with a particular emphasis on photo taking, sharing or editing. Try and include:

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Tagline (eg Twitter – ‘It’s what’s happening’)
  • What it’s for
  • What the interface looks like
  • Who it’s aimed at
  • Anything else you can think of!

We’d love to see your ideas for a new social media platform! Feel free to send them to us at @NTSCollections on Twitter or @nationaltrustforscotland on Instagram.

A square slide mount with text reading 'Kodachrome Slide'. It holds an upside-down colour slide of a black and white cat.
Before it became possible to store huge numbers of photos digitally on computers or social media platforms, it was common to produce slides like this from 1977 National Trust for Scotland: Canna House

Option 2

Although you need light-sensitive paper to record photographs, you can see the principles in action by making your own pinhole camera. Modern film cameras use a lens to focus light waves onto film. The hole of a pinhole camera works like a lens by only allowing a narrow beam of light to enter, which is then reflected on a sheet of paper that takes the place of the film. It can be a bit tricky to see the resulting image, but you should be able to see that it’s reversed and upside down, just like in a traditional camera. The following instructions have come from the Home Science Tools website. Check with an adult that you have everything you need before starting.

We’d love to see the pinhole cameras you build! Feel free to send photos of them to us at @NTSCollections on Twitter or @nationaltrustforscotland on Instagram.

What you need:

A cylindrical crisp can with a metal bottom (like the kind Pringles come in). This works best, but you can also use an empty paper towel roll.

  • Aluminium foil
  • Baking paper/tissue paper
  • Tape (any will do, but masking/electrical is best)
  • Straight pin
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Utility knife or Stanley knife
  • 1 sheet thick, dark (ideally black) paper (optional)

What you do:

1. Use a ruler to measure two inches up from the metal bottom of the can/one end of the paper towel roll, and mark the spot. Do this several more times around the can/roll, then connect the marks so you have a line going all the way around. Cut the can/roll in two pieces along this line. If you’re using a paper towel roll, tape a piece of aluminium foil to one end of the short length of roll. You’ll now have a short tube with one metal/foil end and one open end, and a longer tube with two open ends.

A Pringles tube cut into two pieces - one two inches long, the other eight inches - on a black table.
The tube cut into two pieces

2. Make a hole in the centre of the metal bottom of the can/the aluminium bottom of the roll. This step requires some patience, because you want it to be a tiny, smooth hole. If using a crisp can, you can tap the top of the pin with a heavy object, but then turn it as you push it through the metal so that your edges will be smooth.

The metal bottom of a Pringles tube with a pin hole in the centre, on a black table.
The pinhole, which will act as the lens.

3. Cut a circle out of the baking/tissue paper (just use one sheet of either) and tape it over the top of the short part of the can as tautly as possible (ie the other end from the metal/aluminium bottom). This will be your viewing screen, or ‘film’.

A two-inch long section of Pringles tube with tissue taped over one end, on a black table.
The viewing screen, or ‘film’.

4. Put the long end of the tube back on top of the short end and tape the two pieces together so they form one tube again.

A Pringles tube cut into two pieces and taped back together, on a black table.
The two pieces of tube taped together, with the screen on the inside.

5. For a pinhole camera to work, the only light must come in through the pinhole. Make your camera ‘light-tight’ by wrapping it in aluminium foil. Take a 50cm-long piece of foil and tape the edge to the tube (line up the foil evenly with the metal/aluminium bottom of the tube). Then wrap the foil around the can as many times as it will go, closing the end with tape. Some foil will probably extend over the open end of the tube; just tuck this excess inside the tube.

A Pringles tube wrapped in foil, on a black table.
The tube wrapped in foil to make it light-proof.

6. Now you’re ready to use your camera! Place an object under a bright lamp so it’s well lit. This works best if the object has areas of contrasting colour so it’ll form a clear image. It’s also useful if it includes text, or something else that will make the reversing effect visible. A book cover works well.

7. Point the pinhole end of the camera at it and look through the open end, holding the camera quite close to the object. You’ll need to cup your hand around the end to help keep the inside of the can dark. This will be easier if the room is dark except for the lamp. If you’re still struggling to see, try rolling a piece of dark paper into a tube and inserting it part-way into the open end of the tube. This will act as a light-shielding eyepiece for your camera.

A book on a black table under a lamp, with someone pointing a Pringles tin wrapped in foil (the pinhole camera) at it.
Using the pinhole camera!

8. You should see (quite faintly) a colour, upside-down and reversed image of the object on the baking/tissue paper screen. Move your camera forwards and backwards until the object is in focus.

9. Don’t get confused when trying to centre the object in your viewer. The image is upside-down and reversed, so you’ll have to move the camera in the opposite direction from what you expect.