by Kornelia Eppmann


My „observation child“ Felix is now 4;6 years old.

You can read more about Felix here:

In the Forest with a Ranger

Experiment „Volcano“

Now I would like to take up Felix’s interest in the functioning of a camera.

Felix had got into trouble at home because he had used a non-digital camera to try to photograph a beautiful fish in his grandma’s aquarium for his friend.

I asked myself: Does Felix even know how a camera works and how a photo is taken? Does he know all the things you have to take into account when taking a photo?
I could start a project on this.

What do I want to do?

    • Together with two or three other children, I want to support and accompany Felix in his technical interest.
    • Offer an experiment on how to set up a camera.
    • Visit a photo studio with the children so that they can gain experience there and receive professional technical explanations.

Situation 1 – Felix tells about his misfortune

At the breakfast table we talked about a project that had been running in the neighbouring group, the purple group. In this project, all the children were supposed to take a picture of their pet, if they had one, and bring a picture with them. The pictures were put up on a pin board and then we worked out together how to deal with animals.

Felix had visited his friend Leo (6;5 years), who is in the purple group, at home and raved about his dog, a Labrador.
Then he told us that he would also like to have an animal, but that his mum thought it was still too early.

Felix: „I wanted to take pictures of the fish in Grandma’s aquarium and I put the camera in the water to get the biggest fish.“
„I see,“ I said, having to stifle a laugh, „did you catch him?“
„No, my mum came into the room and scolded me.“

… in a nutshell …

Four-year-old Felix experiences that a mishap can turn into an exciting project.
Together with his kindergarten teacher and with three other boys, including six-year-old Leo, Felix enters the world of photography.
He can ask many questions, search for answers, try out many things and experiences a lively exchange of knowledge and experience in the small group, which culminates in a visit to a photo studio where an expert answers questions.

„Why did she do that?“
„Because the camera is now gone, and I wanted to give Leo a picture of the beautiful fish.“

„How could the camera get broken in the water?“
Felix: „Mum said because there’s water in the camera now. There are lots of little parts in it and they mustn’t get wet, otherwise it won’t work any more.“

„Do you know how a camera works, or have you ever taken a photo yourself?“ I asked Felix.
„No,“ he answered, „but I wanted to try it out at Grandma’s.“

„Maybe we could ask other children if anyone knows anything about cameras and how photos are made,“ I suggested. „If you feel like it, you can invite two or three children to the Chatter Room for an open discussion session. Then we’ll see what the others know about it – and then we could do a project on it.“

Felix: „Oh yes, I already know who I’m going to invite.“
„We’ll meet at 11 o’clock in the Chatter Room, if the others have time,“ I said. „You can still go and play outside if you like and ask your friends to join us.“

Felix: „Will you call us when it’s 11 o’clock? I can’t read a clock yet!“
„Yes, that’s fine.“

Situation 2 – Meeting in the Chatter Room

As suspected, he had invited his friend (5;6) from our group and Leo (6;5) to join.
Later, another 6-year-old child from the green group, who had already participated in experiments several times, joined them.

Felix told us again about the misfortune that had happened to him.
Everyone: „Oh no, it’s broken!“
„There are extra cameras for underwater,“ said the boy from the green group.

Felix asked the others, „Do you know how a camera works? I don’t.“

„Yes,“ Leo answered, „first you need film, then you put it in the camera, and you also need batteries, otherwise it doesn’t work. I also have a camera and have taken pictures before. It’s very important to have light to photograph something.“

„Why do you need batteries?“ I asked.
Felix’s friend replied, „To make the motor run,“ and made a noise, „ssssssssssssssssssssssss.“

„Yeah, right,“ I replied, „do you boys also know what the motor in the camera is doing there?“

Leo: „It transports the film, otherwise you would only be able to take 1 picture.“

„Aha, how many pictures can you take with a film, where and how can you tell how many pictures a film has?“

The boy from the green group made a hand gesture as if he were pointing at something from above and said, „With us you can see that by a little round window, there are numbers on it. When you have taken a picture, the film goes on and you can see the next number. Films come in different sizes with 12 or more pictures.“

„Yes, I have that with my old camera too,“ I replied.

„Is there only one kind of camera?“ I asked the children.
„No,“ they all answered, one of the boys said, „My dad has a digital camera.“

„What’s digital?“ I asked.
„Well, there’s no film in it, it’s a little card, all the pictures are stored there and you can see them on a little monitor,“ he replied.

„What does saved actually mean?“ I asked the group.
One of the boys said, „You must know an attic in the house, it’s also called a storeroom. Things are stored there. When you need them, you fetch them from the attic. That’s how my mum explained it.“
„That’s a good explanation from your mum,“ I said.

„You have a camera like that,“ Felix said to me, „you used it to take pictures of our group.“ „Yes, that’s right, Felix,“ I replied.

I asked him, „Did you have a digital camera like that at your grandma’s?“
Felix: „No, with that camera I couldn’t see the picture.“

Leo: „Then there was a film in it that you have to take to the drugstore to develop.“

„What do you mean develop, how does that work?“ I asked.

The boy from the green group said, „When the film is full, you have to rewind it and take it out, then it goes into a machine. It then makes the photos on paper that you can look at and put in a photo album.“

„So, we need film, batteries – and then what do you have to do?“

Felix: „You have to look through the little window at what you want to photograph and then press the button.“

„Then you have a picture taken?“, I asked. „Yes,“ everyone said.
„But you know what, tomorrow I’ll bring 2 cameras, one digital and another, and you’ll go on a photo rally with them.“

„Oh yeah, that’s cool!“

„Each of you gets to take 6 photos, I’m sure you can all count to 6? We’ll look at the photos later, of course we have to take the ones from the normal camera to the drugstore to be developed first,“ I pointed out.

Nowadays (2009, H.V.) a digital camera is more the norm, and for the children later anyway.

„Maybe Felix can ask his mum if we can have the broken camera. We could take it apart to see what’s inside.“
Felix: „Yes, I’ll ask my mum this afternoon if we can have it.“

„Well then, we’ll meet in the dining room tomorrow very shortly after breakfast and I’ll give you the cameras and explain to you how to use them.

Felix’s mother was kind enough to give us the broken camera for our research purposes.

Course leader’s comment:
We like your way of talking to the children: clear, direct, respectful, with humour and without mincing words; it is noticeable that you take the children seriously.

Situation 3 – Felix goes on a photo rally

At the next meeting I explained how to use the cameras. We talked about: Lens, aperture, shutter, flash, how to insert a film, where to insert the SD card, where to put the batteries. Everyone was allowed to try taking a photo. Something wonderful happened: Felix tried out all the buttons, of course. The flap behind the film popped open.

Everyone looked. „Oh no,“ cried the boy from the green group, „now the film is ruined.“

„Why?“ I asked him.
„Because then it’s exposed and the pictures become nothing.“

„Who says that?“ I asked him.
„That’s what my father explained to me. When his camera wouldn’t go on, he opened the flap too and the film was destroyed.“

„Well, we’ll see when the film is developed.“ I took out the film and asked the boy to put in a new one, which he did very cleverly, saying, „Felix you have to be careful not to get that button again.“

Felix, visibly startled, said quietly, „Yes I will.“

Course leader’s comment:
He is now suffering his 2nd mishap due to his urge to try things out. You dealt with it calmly. It is only due to a lack of knowledge – and you help the children to acquire the necessary knowledge.

Two children each had to take a camera and take 6 pictures with each camera during the photo rally in the house and outside, which they then exchanged with each other.

I could observe how they themselves exchanged explanations on how to handle the cameras.
Felix held the digital camera very close to his nose, whereupon Leo corrected him and said: „Not like that, how are you going to see what you are photographing? You can see the picture on the small monitor. Just hold it in your hand normally and press the shutter button when you can see the picture clearly.“

I was curious to see what they would be most interested in. After they had returned the cameras to me, we sat down together and they reported on all the things they had photographed.

„We’ll look at the pictures together,“ I said, „but who can take the films and drop them off at the drugstore to be developed with mum or dad?“ I asked, „Unfortunately, I can’t make it today.“

The boy from the green group said, „I can take them with me because I’m still going to training today, we’ll pass a drugstore there.“
„Oh, great,“ I said, „tell your mum to come and see me when she picks you up then, thanks for that.“

„So what did you find when you took the photos?“ I asked curiously.

Comment from the course leader:
Another good question on your part.

Felix: „When you look at the sun and take a picture, the picture looks dark, you can see almost nothing.“

Question: „How did you find that out?“

Felix: „With the digital camera, you can see the picture right away.“
„Oh, right. Yes, it’s best to stand so that the sun shines on your back,“ I replied, „then it works better.“

Felix’s friend: „And inside the house the camera is flashing.“
Leo: „Sure, it’s too dark there, too. Light is very important to take a photo.“
„With the digital camera it sometimes takes until you can press the shutter button, the picture wobbles a bit, but then it works,“ said the boy from the green group.

„It wobbles because the picture is in focus before you can press the shutter button,“ I replied. „When we get our developed pictures back from the drugstore, I’ll bring my laptop.  We need it for the pictures from the digital camera, the pictures are better to see there than on the small monitor on the camera, we will then look at your works together. We’ll meet in the Chatter Room, I’ll let you know.“

Situation 4 – Felix tries to understand how a picture is created

We were able to continue our project the very next day.

As promised, I had brought my laptop, the card reader and an old camera from 1962, as well as a photo that had been taken with it.
I had also printed out pictures from the internet showing different cameras to compare.

When I was done with the preparations, I picked up the children from the groups, they immediately dashed towards the Chatter Room.

First we looked at the different cameras (printed photos and the old original) and the children tried to explain how they worked.

Leo: „This is the lens that lets light into the camera, but before you can take a picture, you have to open the aperture.“

Felix: „With the old camera I have to open the aperture and with the digital one it opens automatically when the camera is turned on.“

Then I explained that the old camera didn’t have a motor yet, so you had to do everything by hand. The films were made of the plastic polyester, you had to turn the lens out by hand and keep turning the film by hand.

The children had a close look at the camera and were also allowed to try it out: transporting the film and pressing the shutter release to hear what sounds the old camera made.

Felix wondered about the photo that had once been taken with this old machine: „Why does it have such funny colours?“

„The production of colours wasn’t really researched back then, so there were only a few colours, mostly in grey/brown as you can see in this old photo.“

Now we looked at the newly developed pictures from the drugstore.

„Er, what happened to the photos here?“ asked Felix, pointing to a blurred picture taken with the old camera. Then he spotted the negatives and looked at them, including the one from the exposed film.

„There’s nothing to see at all,“ Felix observed.
The boy from the green group said, „I told you it wouldn’t turn out anything.“

„Who could we ask how this could happen?“ I asked the group.

„Maybe a photographer, I’m sure he can explain it to us,“ Leo said.

Felix: „Yes, but where can we find a photographer?“
„I know, in the City Centre,“ said Felix’s friend, „I’ve been there before with my mother.“

I confirmed, „That’s right, I even saw two photo studios there. If you want, I’ll make an appointment there and we’ll go there later. I’m sure they can answer many questions there.“

Then we turned our attention further to the developed photos.
„What do you think happened there?“, I asked Felix.
„It looks like someone smeared the paint there,“ he replied.
The boy from the green group said, „No, I think that happens when something moves quickly and the shutter button is pressed, then it looks so blurred.“

„Well explained“, I said and took a transparent breakfast bag. I asked the children to look at a photo through the bag. One of the boys said, „It looks all blurred.“

„Right,“ I replied, „with the old camera you can’t see the pictures beforehand and then sometimes you have photos like that, it’s always a surprise when you pick them up from the drugstore.“

Then I explained how to get the pictures from the digital camera to the laptop, that you need a USB cable to transport the pictures stored on the SD card to the laptop where you can view them.

They followed the process of setting it up closely. Now we looked at their photos and Felix asked, „And how do they get on the paper now like the other photos?“

„What do you think?“ I asked the group.
His friend said, „My dad has a printer, he puts paper in it and then he prints out photos.“

„I see,“ said Felix, „can you do that, Konny?“
„Yes, but to do that we have to go to the other computer with the SD card, it doesn’t work with this laptop.“

So we went to the computer together and I printed out for everyone the picture they had taken. They then presented their picture to their groups and took it home.

They had targeted many things: Toys, built Lego things, flower pots, painted pictures on the walls, thermoses from the kitchen, a wall clock, a camera, shoes, doors that were only half captured, our aquarium and many more.

Finally, we arranged to meet in the workshop the day after next to dismantle the broken camera.

Situation 5 – Experiment: seeing the inside of the camera

Now we needed tools.

„Felix, what tools do we need, look at the camera!“

He inspected it from all sides and said, „Screwdriver.“
„Right,“ I replied, „can you also tell which one we need? After all, there are different screwdrivers, Phillips or slotted.“ Using two models, I showed him the difference.

Felix: „I think a Phillips screwdriver, but it has to be really small, look, these are mini screws.“ He picked out the smallest screwdriver.

Now we tried to loosen the screws one after the other, some of the screws were quite tight. Finally we had done it and put the individual parts on the table.

„Yes, really, there are lots of small parts in there,“ said Felix‘ friend, „your mother was right.“

„Look, that’s the lens, that’s where the light comes in,“ said Leo. „And that one looks like a mirror,“ added the boy from the green group.
„What is the mirror in the camera for?“ I asked the group.
„I think,“ said Leo, „that’s where the photos go on the film.“

„This is where the batteries belong,“ Felix noted. „There’s a lot of metal in there, though.“

„Yes, and what happens when the metal gets wet?“ I asked.

Leo: „Then it rusts and the parts no longer work properly.“
I added: „Yes, you can see that well on the screen.“ Indeed, it could no longer be opened properly.

The boy from the green group said, „I wouldn’t have thought that there were so many small parts in a camera.“

I had a film ready, which we now wanted to see from the inside too.
„What do you think it’s made of?“ I asked the children.
Everyone looked all around at the film.

„Maybe plastic,“ said Felix’s friend.

„Plastic is definitely on it too,“ I commented, „up here is the holder to put the film in the camera firmly, otherwise it would probably slide back and forth.“

Then we tried to remove the outer cover of the film. It took a lot of force to destroy the outer shell of the film.
Finally we could see what the film was made of.

Leo said, „The cover is made of metal and, look, inside the metal is black, the film feels like plastic.“

„This round thing here is called a spool to which the plastic film is attached,“ I said, „it’s wound up there, rolled.“

„Why does the film have such a thick solid cover?“, I asked the children.
Felix: „So that no light can get to the film and it won’t break if it falls down.“

I replied, „It could be like that, but I have a suggestion: we’ll go to the photo studio next week and take our camera and the film with us. Maybe they can explain to us there exactly how all this works.“

„Oh yes, that will definitely be exciting,“ said Leo.
„I’m already curious too,“ I replied. Then we put all the parts in a bag and said goodbye.

Situation 6 – Visit to the photo studio

Full of excitement, we set off for the photo studio with our camera and film in our luggage.

We were allowed to come half an hour before opening time. A woman welcomed us very nicely and allowed the children to look around, asking them not to touch anything.

That also worked out well.
„Come here, there are umbrellas stretched out here!“, Felix called out to the others. „It’s really dark here, can you turn on the light?“ he asked the woman.
„We’ll do that a little later,“ she replied.

„But why did you come here?“ she asked the children.
Leo said, „We wanted to know how the photos are developed.“
„…and how the pictures get into the camera,“ interjected Felix. „We also brought a camera and a film, we have already investigated these things.“
„Let’s have a look then!“ she said.

„What happened there?“ And Felix told her again about his misfortune.
A hidden smile slipped from her face, then she asked the children what they had already found out, confirming that they were already on the right track.

She took the broken camera and explained the parts to them: Lens, etc.
The children said that they already knew that.
She then explained that there is a light-sensitive layer on the film. „When light falls on it, the layer changes and the image is burnt onto the film. If too much light gets on the film, all the pictures are gone, that’s what happened to Felix when he accidentally opened the flap.“

Now she turned on the light in the photo corner and explained why this was necessary. She then showed the children a monster-sized machine in which the films are inserted and developed and out of which come finished photos.

She told the children that there used to be a photo lab here to develop films. It had to be dark there and the pictures could then be developed in chemical solutions, they even had to be hung up on a line to dry.
„Did you have clothes pegs there too?“ asked Felix’s friend. The woman nodded.

We thanked her warmly and made our way back to the kindergarten.

The next day we arranged to meet again in the Chatter Room to talk about our project, then everyone went to their group.

Felix was still discussing the big machine with his friend, which fascinated him.
„Cool when the photos come out, isn’t it?“

Situation 7 – The project´s meaning for the boys

We met again in the Chatter Room to conclude our project.

The children were asked to describe their impressions, emotions and perceptions from their point of view.

When I asked them if they had enjoyed it,

Leo answered: „Oh yes, I was able to try out a lot of things I didn’t know before, like how to insert a film or how the pictures get onto the paper.“

Felix said, „Now I can take pictures too and I don’t break a camera anymore.“

Felix friend said, „I already knew a few things, but I’ve never seen the photo studio before, that’s cool.“

The boy from the green group said, „You know, that was a good project, now I can also wish for a camera, a digital one would be nice, so my dad can print the photos, I know how it works now.“

How did you learn with and from each other?

Felix: „Leo showed me how to hold the camera properly and that I mustn’t shake it when I want to take a picture and that you mustn’t open the camera or the film will be ruined.“

Leo: „I thought it was good that everyone could take part in dismantling the camera, I couldn’t have done it on my own, the screws were really tight. Thank you, Felix, for inviting me to the project.“

What was important for you in our project?

Leo: „That we learned something, now I can also show my friends at home how to take pictures and tell them what not to do if you want to have beautiful pictures.“

Felix: „That I can also take pictures now, that I know how it works. I like projects, I can learn a lot of things there.“

His friend: „I would like to try out new things with Felix,
I like all the cameras.“

What was the best thing about the project for you?

Felix: „That you brought your cameras and we could do a photo rally.“

Leo: „Taking the camera apart, it was hard, but there I could see how it works with photography.“

Felix´s friend said, „I liked the photo studio, the big machine where the photos are developed.“

The boy from the green group said, „I liked the digital photos on the laptop best because you can look at the photos quickly.“

Course leader’s comment:
The children each have their own view and their own ideas.

„All I can say is that I really enjoyed working with you in the project and I was amazed at how much you already knew. But most of all, you worked well together to find out new things, for yourselves and also for others, helping each other.“

As it was close to the summer holidays, I wished everyone a wonderful holiday season and the two future school children as much fun in school as they had in kindergarten.

A few days later Felix came to me and said, „Konny, you know what?“
„No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me in a minute.“
„You have to guess first!“

„Did you maybe get a new car?“ – „No.“
„Then your grandma is probably coming to visit?“ – „No.“
„You’re going on holiday tomorrow?“ – „No,“ at this he was amused at me because I had completely missed the mark.

„Then tell me now, because now I’m really curious.“
Felix: „I got a little cat, her name is Lucie.“
„What a joy, now your wish for an animal has finally come true! Have you already taken a photo of her? Then bring it along, I’d like to see your cat too.“

„Our camera is broken, that’s why I couldn’t take a photo yet.“
„I have an idea, you take my digital camera home and take some photos of your cat.“
„Oh yes!“ he cheered, taking my camera and putting it in his drawer.

„I’m sure you remember how everything works.“ – „Sure I do,“ he said.
„And then in the morning circle you can show it to all the children.“ – „Yes, I’ll do that.“


Through a mishap and a lack of knowledge, a new interest developed for Felix to know something about a camera and to gain new experiences in using it.

Through appropriate impulses and concrete questions, I was able to encourage him to do a project. He himself was to choose adequate project partners to discover new things together with them, to expand his knowledge and to try out his abilities and skills.

It was important that there was enough time available in this project, that it could be carried out consecutively and that I could create a suitable range of materials to support and accompany Felix in his acquisition of knowledge.

The professional support of the photo studio also contributed to the acquisition of knowledge and confirmed what he had already learned.

Many thanks also to his mother, who considerably expanded the material offer by donating the camera, which gave the children deep insights into the technology and made an experiment possible.

I myself really enjoyed seeing the eagerness with which he participated in the project and cheered his successes to tell everyone else.

He was able to share experiences with his specially chosen partners, he stayed curious and had fun.

His self-confidence was boosted and he proudly showed what he had worked on, so I consider my goal to have been achieved.


Date of publication in German: April 2015
Copyright © Kornelia Eppmann, see Imprint