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Volume 2 Number 6

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Lesson #2294. Digital Photography and History

Posted by Jeremy Pidhirny, Wesley Academy, Pittsburgh, PA
Art, level: Senior; Materials Required: Internet connection, Photo manipulation software, Digital Camera
Activity Time: 5-6 classes; Concepts Taught: History, Photomanipulation, Writing

This is an interdisciplinary lesson plan that incorperates history, art, and computer graphics. The students will choose a photograph that depicts a historic event such the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, that I chose to use as my example. The students can use photos that can be scanned or scour the Internet to find pictures at sites like The students will then use a digital camera to take a picture of themselves in a pose to fit into the original photo. They will then use software to cut their image from the digital photograph and seam it into the historical one. The students should then research the event and write a short essay on the facts of the event and their hypothetical role in that event.

Lesson Title: History and Computer Graphics

Information about the Learners: This lesson is designed for studentsí grades 9-12. The students should have basic computer skills such as power on /off, mouse use, saving, opening applications, and cutting and pasting of objects within applications. Accommodations can be made for students with disabilities such as vision difficulties by adjusting the screen resolution and font sizes. If they choose to do so students can include multicultural aspects to their project by using photos of that nature.

Expected Outcomes: The object of this lesson is for the students to learn to manipulate photographs using a software application and apply this learning to create a piece of work that relates to an event in history. The students will learn to use a digital camera and put the picture that is taken into a historical photograph. There are several things the students will learn in this process. First the students will have to convert the picture to black and white if necessary, and use the available filters to match their pictureís quality to the historical one. Secondly the students will have to use selection tools to pick themselves out of the student picture and copy it to the historical photo. Lastly the students will use selection and drawing tools to alter the historical photograph so that the student looks as if they were part of the original photograph. The students will then learn creative writing skills while creating a short story that explains the event and what part they had in it. The students will also learn how to search for pictures using or the AP Photo Archive site on the Internet. Students will learn Internet researching skills as they use search engines and links to find detailed information on their chosen event.

Necessary Resources: The students will need to have access to a computer that has Internet access and photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop LE, Microsoft PhotoDraw, Corel PhotoPaint, or other product that allows photo manipulation. The students will also need to have access to a word processing program such as Microsoft Word or the equivalent. The teacher will preferably have access to a digital camera to pictures of the students or alternately could take pictures with a 35mm camera and use a scanner to capture the pictures. The teacher will also need to communicate with the history teachers to assess what topics may be suitable for the studentís projects. A printer would allow the final results to be printed and displayed.

Description of Learning Environment: This lesson is very involved and will take between 9-12 class meetings, but the teacher should be prepared to adjust the time schedule as needed. The students will have 2 classes to research their topic on the Intent and find an appropriate photo to use for the assignment. They will then have 1 class to take pictures with the digital camera. The students will have 2 classes to edit the pictures and select themselves from the background. 3 classes are allowed for the students to paste their pictures into the historical photo and use drawing and selection tools to perfect the image. The students will then have 3 classes to complete the written portion of the assignment. The lesson will take place in a computer lab that is equipped with a computer for each student in the class. The teacher should have an example prepared to show the students and a list of topics for the students to choose from.

Description of Teaching and Learning Strategies: The teacher will give demonstrations of the techniques to be used for each step of the process. The teacher will then facilitate the studentís learning by giving help and advice when needed. The teacher will set forth guidelines for the students to work within and will have final say on the appropriateness of the project ideas. The students will use the Internet as a research tool and to find a historical photograph on which to base their project. The Internet will allow the students to access far more information about events than an ordinary textbook. They will be urged to find Internet sites that relate a personal involvement in an event and also a picture of the event. The students will be encouraged to find creative solutions to the problem in both the pictorial and written parts of the assignment. The students will also have access to the writing support center in the school for the written part of the assignment.

Description of the Assessment: The assignment will be worth 100 points, 50 for the historical picture composite and 50 for the written essay portion. The composite points break down as such, 10 points for creativity, 15 points accurately cutting and pasting, 15 points for altering the image to match the original, and 10 points for class participation. The written portion is worth, 10 points for creativity, 20 points for grammar and spelling, 10 points for comprehension. There will be a 10 point penalty for assignments turned in past the due date.

Relationship to Other Learning Experiences: This lesson is designed to relate to other learning experiences in the school. By focusing on topics that the students are learning in their history classes the lesson will reinforce that material. The written portion of the assignment will reinforce creative writing skills and allow the students to make a historical event more interesting through their own personal involvement. The assignment also relates to real world applications. The photo editing is a skill that is used in a wide variety of careers including advertising and movie production. The students will also learn Internet research skills, which can be applied in any school discipline.

Lesson Sequence:

  1. The teacher will introduce the students to the lesson by showing them an example of the project. The teacher will give the students a list of possible topics for the assignment and go over the guidelines for the project. The picture the students choose must be appropriate for school and pictures depicting drugs, alcohol, sex, or violence towards others will not be considered. The teacher will have final say on any pictures used for the assignment and their decision is final.

  2. The students will have 2 classes to use the Internet to find an appropriate photo and do research for the written portion of the assignment. They will visit and to find a photograph. They will then use search engines such as or, or any of the many others to find information on the event they have chosen.

  3. The students will then use the digital camera to take pictures of themselves in poses that will fit into the historical photograph. They will be encouraged to dress the part or use props if feasible.

  4. The teacher will then give a demonstration of how to use the editing software to alter the picture to match the historical photo. The teacher will also show the students how to use selection tools to cut themselves out of the picture to get rid of the background. The teacher will then work one on one with the students to help them complete this part of the assignment.

  5. The students will then paste the picture of themselves on to the historical photo and use the editing software to knit the two pictures together. They may have to remove or add parts of the picture, add shadows or use other techniques to complete the assignment. The teacher will once again work one on one with the students to solve individual problems that may come up.

  6. The students will then have 3 classes to write the composition that describes the event in the photo and what part they played in it. They should include factual information as well as creative elements in the story.

  7. The students will then print their work or put it on disk for the teacher to assess.


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