I was shopping on the internet, looking for art supplies to buy as a holiday present for my artist sister-in-law, when I came upon the words “opaque projector” and found myself backsliding through time; twenty years back, to when I was an art-challenged kindergarten teacher. My five year-old students actually laughed when I attempted to draw anything. So I usually stuck to my specialty – a cottage with daisy-like flowers in front of it, trees beside it, and a bright yellow sun above. Thank goodness I’d been paired with Ms Camarena, a teacher’s aide who could draw anything.
It was the era when Whole Language was the teaching method in vogue in Early Childhood Education. Teachers created multi-subject curriculum units centered around a work of literature so that children could immerse themselves in the story as they explored math, science, social studies, and language arts concepts. One of my units was based on Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are“, with its hauntingly beautiful full-page paintings. It was just before the end-of-the-year “Parent’s Night” when teachers exhibited the culmination of the year’s work so I decided to base my “dog and pony show” on Max and his wild friends.
We’d write a class story (my language arts unit). The children would paint their own drawings (art), and we’d display them all around a blackboard mural depicting their favorite page to be drawn in colored chalk (by Ms Camarena, naturally!). The chosen page for the mural would be determined by a class vote (social studies). We’d count and graph the votes (math).
Yes, it would be a wonderful unit to display for the parents. My Parents Night would be one for the books! The pieces were all falling into place – until the bottom fell out. Ms Camarena’s mother fell seriously ill in New Mexico on a Wednesday night. It was less than doubtful that she’d be back before parent’s night the following Monday ……..and I had to come up with a mural!
It took three days, but when the parents arrived Monday night, there they were – Max and the Wild Things, swinging from the trees. Did I hire an artist? No. I signed out the school’s lone opaque projector. The hardest part was rolling the hulking, top-heavy, metal monster, from the A-V closet to my class room without it toppling over. The rest was fun.
All I had to do was turn on the incredibly bright hot bulb, open the book to the desired page, place it on the stage underneath and, voila!, the scene appeared on the blackboard. I filled it in with my colored chalk and produced a mural to which Mr Sendak would have given a thumbs-up. Magic ? No, projector technology!
An opaque projector is composed of three main parts, a very bright light bulb, a series of mirrors and lenses, and a glass stage. It takes a solid, opaque image and projects it onto a screen (or blackboard). I placed the image, in my case, the selected page on the stage, and the bulb’s light reflected off it and up into a lens which in turn, focused it through mirrors, to another lens, and out to the black board. I had to color in the picture between rest periods required to cool the bulb lest it burn the page. It’s hard to explain, but all I know is it worked!
Curious to see if the opaque projector had slimmed down over the past twenty years, I visited the Kopykake Kopyrite KR100 Artist Opaque Projector and was shocked by its makeover!
All I can say is, they’ve come a long way baby!