Make a Pinhole Camera

Science of Light for Kids: How to Make a Simple Pinhole Camera

This is a great science experiment for kids that is a lot of fun, easy to do, very inexpensive, and showcases some important principles of light and vision.  My parents helped me put one of these together back when I was in the second grade, and I still have the camera – It is just as cool now as it was back then!

* A cardboard cylinder – An empty oatmeal canister works perfectly for this science experiment. 
(If you are looking to make a more permanent pinhole camera, use a small wooden, 5-sided container or cylinder instead of cardboard.)
* Parchment paper (printer or wax paper will also work)
* A rubber band that is large enough to stretch around the container
* Something to poke a hole in the container (A pen, screwdriver, or long nail works great.  Make sure there is adult supervision with the sharp objects if you are working with young kids.)

* Step One: Poke a hole in the bottom, center of your container.  If you are using cardboard, this is a pretty easy step, and can be done with something as easy to find as a ballpoint pen.  If you are using wood to make a more permanent pinhole camera, you’ll want an adult to drill a hole in the bottom, center of the wooden container. 
* Step Two: Cut out a piece of parchment paper that is big enough to cover the opening of the container.  The parchment should be stretched tight, and should completely cover the opening of the container. 
* Step Three: Stretch the rubber band around the opening of the container so that it is holding the parchment paper tightly in place.  By this step, your pinhole camera should resemble a drum. 
* Step Four: Stand in a dark room, and point the bottom of the container out the window towards a brightly lit tree, building, or some other brightly lit scene.  When you look at the parchment, the scene coming through the pinhole will appear upside down. 

This science experiment works off of some important principles of light and vision.  When light rays travel to our eyes, the rays go through the pupil and lens, and produce an inverted (upside down) image on the retina.  Then, the image is turned right side up again by the part of our brain that manages sight.  When you use a pinhole camera, the image you see projected on the parchment paper is actually what your eyes see before your brain flips things upright.