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Learning from all sorts of different backgrounds

October 19, 2010

One of the biggest “bang for the buck” things I’ve done to encourage student inquiry and fascination with science is changing my background on my computer (and projector screen) to a rotating gallery of science photos I’ve found all around the internet. It’s easy to set up, and you wouldn’t believe how curious it gets kids about science. My kids love them so much, I now have them rotate every 5 minutes or so. I can’t count how many times my kids have said “what’s that?”

It used to be, I’d say “oh that’s just…” but now, I’m much more about asking questions. “What do you see? What does that tell you?”

For instance, today, this picture came up:

student: What’s that?
me: What do you see?
student: I see stars, and a really bright star?
me: Anything else?
student: numbers! 10/30/ 1/27 1/18?
me: what does that mean?
Student: they’re dates!
Me: What does this remind you of?
Student: Motion maps! Part of it looks like CVPM! (nb. they really did say that–score one for modeling).
Me: Could it be the moon?
Student: no, we saw in Goodnight Moon (click this link), the moon moves through the sky faster.
me: could it be a star?
Student: no, it’s too bright, and they move together…how about a planet?
me: cool. So why does it seem to move backward?
Student: I don’t know, why?
me: That’s for you to figure out.

There are some great sources of photos out there if you’re starting a collection:

If you’d like a ready-made collection, here’s a link to my 250 photos.

One hint if you do this: be sure to put some notes for yourself in the metadata of the photo so that you know what the image is when you try to figure it out.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 4:15 pm

    The rotating pictures idea sounds great but when I went to the link, it said that file needed me to log in. Is there a way I could access your 159 pictures?

    What a great idea!


    • January 4, 2011 6:25 pm

      Sorry about that. I fixed the link and added about 100 more images I’ve cobbled together. Enjoy!

  2. Patti permalink
    January 14, 2012 10:53 pm

    Hi there-
    Downloaded your 250 photos – but as you wrote
    “One hint if you do this: be sure to put some notes for yourself in the metadata of the photo so that you know what the image is when you try to figure it out”.
    What is the metadata? I glanced quickly at your first picture, which looks very similar to your second picture. I notice Einstein in the picture. Can you tell me what it actually is a picture of?

  3. Colleen permalink
    April 9, 2014 8:15 pm

    Really like your idea of leaving images for students to see and ponder over… Another great site that has wondeful science photos is

  4. March 10, 2015 9:21 pm

    Thanks for this great tip and your generosity in sharing your photo collection. I love it! I will be sharing a link to this post with a bunch of teaching colleagues. 🙂

  5. Caleb Johnson permalink
    July 18, 2020 6:12 pm

    Link for pictures is dead, do you still have them?

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