Light Painting at Lighthouse


This semester at Lighthouse Afterschool Program we're exploring light, shadow, and color related activities. After making our journals, the next activity we dove into was Light Painting. We spent two weeks on this activity, with the first week spent exploring the materials and techniques, and the second week refining those processes to make images that convey a message we want to share with our community. One thing I value about our collaboration with Lighthouse is the emphasis they place on student voice and community action. Seeing positive messages around the school inspired us to try this community-oriented spin on light painting.

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Writing with light painting can be challenging - your instinct is to write normally when you face the camera, but that ends up making the words appear backwards. Marcelline came up with a technique of writing with her back to the camera but holding the LED so it pointed towards the camera to form her words. That way she could write normally, and still have the camera "read" the letters the right way. With this technique she could quickly write out a complex sentence without having to worry about the letters being backwards. To describe why this message is important to her, Marceline said, "I think that my message is important because integrity is what most try and work on. It's a difficult value. And when people lie it's not always hidden."


We also had stencils on hand to facilitate incorporating words. Katrina and Sandra collaborated to make images that included the words "respect" and "peace." They used EL wire and an app called Pablo (rather than a digital camera) to make their messages. I like they way their silhouettes are included too. They said they chose peace and respect because those are "what we really need on this planet."

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Rosie, our co-teacher from Lighthouse, worked with Shauna and Rose to create a Tinkering Club light painting. Shauna used a color changing LED to make the designs at the top, and Rose used a green LED to make the swirls at the bottom. They made several iterations of this image to get one they liked, and Shauna used her observations of what they found worked well to help give advice to other groups.


Sara and Yesenia collaborated to make several versions of light paintings with the words "Justice for All." When reflecting on why they wanted to send this message to their community, Sara said, "we chose Justice because we believe that not everybody has justice so they can't be equal. I chose this because we really need justice in our lives."

Although many of the ASP students chose to use words, others wanted to make abstract images to convey an idea. Marguerite, Karla, and Thalia collaborated to make the image below. Marguerite wrapped herself in EL wire and spun around to make the bright stripes, and Karla and Thalia used different light sources to make the subtle patterns across the top and bottom. They decided to call the image "I am Me" and Marguerite said, "this is me because I express myself to be a little bit crazy and like to have fun."


The approach of using light play as a medium for conveying messages was new for us, and I was super happy to see the breadth of ideas the students had for what was important to them and how they wanted to share it. The following week we brought back printed photos of the students images and gave them the opportunity to add a title and description. We then hung those posters on a bulletin board outside of the Creativity Lab so their thoughts could be shared with their school community.

Overdeck Family Foundation

This collaboration is funded by the Overdeck Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

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