Painting with Light at Highlands School

Art meets science at Highlands Elementary School, where an NEF grant is helping third grade students create “light paintings” using familiar tools: digital cameras and flashlights.

Art teacher Kyle Wood said students apply software that allows for long exposure photography using iPad cameras. Working in a darkened classroom, they shine small flashlights on moving or stationary objects. “For example,” Wood said, “they took a stuffed dragon and used a flashlight to mimic fire coming out of the dragon’s mouth.”

Breathing fire!

Kyle Wood in his art classroom

“The kids get very excited and enjoy looking for new perspectives,” adds Wood, “including ‘forced perspective’, a technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is.”

An example of forced perspective

Wood added that some creations represent an abstract perspective, while others are as basic as a smiley face.

Examples of abstract art

In addition, third grade students are learning how a digital camera works (general photography); fourth graders are learning stop-motion animation (think Frankenweenie, Scary Movie 2, and Mr. Bill); and fifth grade students are working with digital video.

Photos can be printed and mounted (framed) or uploaded onto the Internet.

Students in a double exposure

For the past three years, Wood has been working with District 203 on a project incorporating iPads and technology into the elementary art curriculum. The District gave him 15 iPads — enough for 30 students to work in pairs. With an $800 NEF grant, he purchased 15 each of iPad mounts, tripods and flashlights.

Wood recently learned that next year’s district contribution will allow him to double the number of iPads and work with students individually.

Once each student has his or her own iPad and mount, Wood can fulfill his long-term goal of getting students at all grade levels to create electronic (eBook) art portfolios that can grow with them.

Wood, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, said the young students remain quiet and attentive when he explains scientific concepts, and parents are responding positively. “I’ve gotten some good feedback from parents who see that this is another medium their kids can excel at…whether it’s drawing, animation, video or sculpture.”

For more information about “Painting with Light” at Highlands School, contact
Kyle Wood, Highlands School

Through its Annual Grant Awards, NEF helps fund inspirational enrichment
programs created by District 203 teachers, parents and students. Each year,
30-50 grants are awarded in the categories of Literacy, Math & Science, Fine Arts,
Health & Physical Development, General and Cultural Studies.
Learn more

If you have any questions, please contact Ann at (630) 420-3086 or

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