Meaning-Making Through Slow Motion Video

Meaning-Making Through Slow Motion Video

Learners model a phenomenon after viewing real-time and slow motion video to see how the different video types allow them to see the same phenomenon differently.


4 - 12


Biology, Storytelling, Experiential Learning, Photography, Filmmaking

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Slow-motion video allows us to see things in the world that are almost invisible to us because they move too fast. Hummingbirds, for example, move so quickly that it is hard to see that they have wings at all or how they manage to eat or get a drink of water! This is an activity that allows learners to see how slow-motion video helps us slow down to see beauty and make sense of science in the world in new ways.

Guiding Questions

  • What natural wonders in the world move too fast for us to carefully observe?
  • How does slow-motion video allow us to see the world differently?
  • In what other ways can we slow down to make deeper observations about the world?

When to Use This Activity

This activity can be completed any time, but it could be a good introduction to modeling in the science classroom.

This activity encourages learners to think about ways to slow down their observations to make meaning of the world.

Learning Objectives

Learners will model a phenomenon after viewing real-time and slow motion video to see how the different video types allow them to see the same phenomenon differently.

Teaching Approach: learner centered instruction

Teaching Methods

  • Stimulate meaning-making: Allow learners to construct their own ideas about phenomenon.

Skills Summary

  • curiosity
  • wonder
  • modeling
  • communication

What You’ll Need

  • Materials You Provide: What I See... and What I Don't See (PDF)
  • Required Technology: Laptop; Screen to project video
  • Physical Space: any learning space
  • Time: 30-50 minutes
  • Audience: ages 8 and up

Ease of Use: simple


  1. Show the video clip of a hummingbird eating or drinking in real time. (0:35- 0:46 from TIL:Hummingbirds Are the World’s Hungriest Birds) Encourage learners to pay close attention to what they see, with particular attention to details around before, during, and after the event being observed.

  2. Have students represent their explanation of how the hummingbird eats or drinks after watching the clip. This could be done through gestures, drawings, or words. Then have students share their representations with each other and identify questions they want to answer.

  3. Show the first 30 seconds of a second clip (Hummingbirds, Anand Varma) of a hummingbird drinking in slow motion. To access this video, go to the top of this page.

  4. Share ‘What I See... and What I Don't See tool with learners. Before learners start modeling their ideas, discuss the meaning of observable and unobservable features of a phenomenon and share drawing conventions that everyone could use (e.g. color, arrows, zoom-in bubbles) to represent ideas that might be more challenging to draw. For example, discuss a pot of boiling water. Observable features include the water and steam, perhaps the heat source underneath the pot. Unobservable features would be water molecules bumping around and hitting each other and the walls of the container, or rising up in the steam. Drawing conventions could include how to represent a water molecule as a circle and using arrows to show how the water molecules move. A zoom-in bubble could be used to show that these circles and arrows are not something we see, but that are happening within the water as it boils.

  5. Have learners complete their Before-During-After models of the hummingbird drinking.

  6. Have students share their models with each other.

  7. Discuss: What did the slow motion video allow us to see that we could not see in real time? How did our questions change after watching the slow motion video? What other things in the world would you like to see in slow motion?

Modifications, Variations, and Extensions

  1. Allow learners to work in pairs or groups to collaborate.

  2. Learners could complete the learning tool What I See… and What I Don’t See after the first clip and revise it after watching the slow motion video. This would allow them to revise their representations to more easily see what kinds of details the slow motion video allowed them to notice that they missed in the real-time video.

  3. If older students have access to phones or computers that can take video, they can capture some of the things they would like to see in slow motion and see how their observations and wonders change after exploring the video.


Conijn, J., Rietdijk, W., Broekhof, E., Andre, L., & Schinkel, A. (2021). A theoretical framework and questionnaire for wonder-full education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 54(3), 423-444.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Elizabeth Wolzak, Director, Learning Innovation, Edu Lab, National Geographic
Heather J. Johnson, Vanderbilt University
Stephanie Hamilton, Education Consultant, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Kate Gallery, National Geographic Society
Kate Gallery, National Geographic Society
Graphic Design
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

March 4, 2024

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