Time Lapse Photography as a Teaching Tool

IMG_1144As we thaw from winter into spring, it’s easy to miss the changes that steadily, but sometimes almost imperceptibly, unfold around us. One way to help students focus on these changes is time-lapse photography. Actually, this activity is more accurately called time-sequenced photography. All you need to do is take a series of photos and then mount the sequence in a notebook or on a poster. There is no action, but the changes can still be impressive.

Choose a good subject, like a plant just beginning to peek above the ground, a snow bank slowly melting, or a tree branch with several buds. It’s important to take a picture regularly from the same position. Use a tripod to place your phone/camera in the same place each time.

If you are watching a plant emerge, take a photo every day. For tree buds, take a photo once or twice a week until you see more frequent change. If you are impatient, you can always buy a white carnation and place it in a glass with water and red food coloring– take pictures every few hours!

To add action, try a video version. An Internet search of time-lapse photography yields programs specially designed to create time-lapse movies. Video is a more complex project, but the results can be very impressive.

Capturing the subtle, dramatic changes of winter morphing into spring encourages students to pause and experience the remarkable unfolding of the seasons. The photos can make an attractive classroom display and encourage students to take a closer look at the natural world around them.