Physiology, Photography Classes Combine for Interdisciplinary Unit

The unit explored the similarities and differences between how the human eye and digital cameras capture visual imagery.
Students in St. Margaret’s Upper School physiology and photography classes combined for an interdisciplinary unit this week that explored the similarities and differences between how the human eye and digital cameras capture visual imagery.

The unit, co-designed and co-taught by science teacher Nancy Linaweaver and visual arts teacher Karen Poffenberger, was a way to expand the relevance of learning in each class and better explain the science of what humans see with their own eyes and what humans capture through photography. The overarching question driving the unit and student thinking is “Can we compare the functionality of the human eye to that of a camera? Is this a fair comparison?”

The unit explored topics regarding the accuracy of cameras versus the human eye when capturing light, color, depth and focus. It also explored how eyes resolve detail, the parallels between the pupil and a camera’s aperture, the anatomy of the eye and how the brain translates what the eye captures.

Several hands-on exercises were conducted by the students, which were documented through photography. Students tested their own eyes in selective focusing, observed pupil dilation in the dark versus light, and even observed the “what color is this dress” image that went viral due to the different answers it elicited -- a way to spark the discussion of the trustworthiness of our own vision.

Mrs. Linaweaver and Mrs. Poffenberger developed the curriculum over the summer as part of St. Margaret’s Innovation Summer Grant program, where faculty were challenged to partner with teachers in another department to create interdisciplinary lessons that integrate content and skills across division.

The teachers will share their experiences and model their pilot with the entire faculty during a professional development day in January.
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