Introduction to the Electronic Pinhole Kit

©1998 Exploratorium

The Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry's professional development curriculum uses group and individual investigations into pinholes to illuminate some of the important aspects and qualities of inquiry-based science teaching and learning.

This Electronic Pinhole Kit provides you with the tools, activities, and starting points you'll need to recreate some IFI inquiry experiences for teachers in your districts and projects.

While there is no "right way" to introduce or structure the activities and demonstrations in this electronic kit, at the Institute we tend to start workshops with exploratory investigations. We do this so that teachers can experience pinhole phenomena, make observations, and start to see connections before they move on to more structured investigations leading to greater conceptual understanding.


How We Typically Structure the Inquiry Experience

After an initial period of time exploring pinholes by doing the Inquiry Starting Point - Tabletop Light Source Activity, teachers usually have some feeling of accomplishment, some of wonder, and some of confusion. The starter activity has served to arouse their interest and to establish a domain (a range of ideas and phenomena) for further inquiries.

We then move on to a demonstration, like the Clamp Light Demonstration, which can provide them with a thinking tool (an idea that provides a way to think about and make sense of experimental results) which they can use during their investigations to come.

Next, we provide some activities that extend their experiences with pinholes (such as the Making a Pinhole Viewer activity). Afterwards, we convene as a group to solicit observations and questions. Besides allowing teachers to articulate and share what they have experienced and learned, this process helps to elucidate what the different teachers are interested in pursuing.

From there we organize investigations by grouping together the teachers who have expressed similar interests. After teachers have pursued their investigations for some time, we reconvene as a group to share their results. During this process the teachers learn from each other, making connections between what one group has done or observed and their own experiences, thereby contributing to the conceptual understanding of the group as a whole.

Throughout the workshop, we promote questioning and observation on the part of participants. Periodically we come together as a group to share observations, so that people can begin to create conceptual understanding through their group conversations.

For a more complete explanation of how we conduct the Institutes and why we use a particular pathway, see Designing an Inquiry Workshop with Pinholes included in this kit.


A Note about Tabletop Light Sources

In workshops at the Institute for Inquiry we use Round Light Sources for many of these investigations. In creating materials for off-site use, we found that it was more efficient and less bulky to create Square Light Sources. In the activities, any reference to a Tabletop Light Source refers to either the Round or the Square Light Source. When we refer to clamp lights, we mean standard lamps with reflectors, which you can clamp on to desktops or shelves.