Pin-hole camera workshop that was supposed to be fun

A little while ago, Sengkang Babies held a giveaway in their blog for a chance to win a free pin-hole camera workshop with Npower Education. By then, I had already read a few cool reviews about it from a few fellow bloggers who were invited by them earlier this year to bring their kids to give this workshop a go. Everyone enjoyed it and I was also quite intrigued. The workshop looked simple enough so I wondered if Xan will be interested. Lo and behold, I was one of the 3 winners of the giveaway! Yippee! I wasted no time to make reservations for Xan and booked an extra space for his cousin so that they could attend this together.

Npower Education (opened in November 2012) is mainly a tuition centre that caters to students from about 6 years old to 16 years old and occasionally offers special classes such as the pinhole camera workshop during the school holidays. Kids will learn how to construct the camera from a cardboard box and other commonly found materials as well as learn how to develop their photographs the good old fashion way in a darkroom. So exciting right?

Ok I need to hao lian a bit here. I studied photography back in my university days so I am already familiar with the process of developing black and white prints in a dark room. The developer, stop bath, fixer, dodge and burn, Ilford paper, etc. That being said, I went mainly to observe how the instructor was able to engage a classroom of kids in this potentially dry subject. Not every kid is interested to know why in the early days a landscape photo had to take 8 hours to get the right exposure. When the instructor Miss Khoo held up some 35mm film negatives, all the kids and I mean ALL 8 boys ( ages from from 10 years old to 12 years old with the exception of our 2 boys) drew a blank stare and said they have never see it before. Some were even shocked to learn that film was limited to only 36 exposures (sometimes 38 if you were lucky) and they would not be able to delete anything at any point of time. The gasps were deafening. I also suddenly felt extremely old for knowing what film negatives were. ๐Ÿ™

The other reviews about this workshop were extremely clear so I won’t elaborate further. You can search for them by typing “Npower Education + pinhole camera”. I do however, want to share my feelings about the 3 hour session: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

When I contacted Npower Education to claim the free workshop, I mentioned to them that the boys were about 5 and 6 years old. They replied to say they will arrange for an additional assistant and other preparations for them. So they did and the boys thought the JieJie was very friendly even though her long hair bothered them a bit. Hahahaha! Aiyoh! At one point in the darkroom Miss Khoo casually asked if anybody was afraid of the dark. A little hand went up and Xan said quite softly “I’m a bit scared of the dark…” From then on, he held the assistant’s hand whenever the lights went off. How do I know? I was present throughout the whole workshop lah. That was another nice thing they did. They allowed me to hang around the entire time. I think mainly because the boys were so young compared to the other participants. Miss Khoo also made a conscience effort to include our boys in some Q and A so that they wouldn’t feel left out.

pinhole 01

The bad

The classroom was a tad too small to squeeze 8 active boys so there was a bit of jostling and whining when anyone wants to move around. The 3 ladies (Miss Khoo, assistant and Raine, the person I had been liaising with via email) tried their best to keep the excitable boys under control. Xan and my nephew being the sociable kids they are, attempted to engage so of the boys with some small talk but sadly most of them ignore the little ones presumably they couldn’t “get” what was so funny. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended. In fact I expected it to happen. Our boys need to learn how to deal with such situations on their own right? So ke lian.

pinhole 02
All excited to take pictures of each other.
pinhole 03
Miss Khoo showing the boys the various chemicals needed for developing the prints.

The ugly

Perhaps it is a hormonal thing with young boys, some of them obviously didn’t like the fact that they got “thrown” to the table of “babies” and they really made their displeasure known. Comments about the workshop is supposed to be for 12 year olds and why these 2 kids are allowed in the class was thrown sarcastically to the instructor. She held her ground and replied him that she knows and it was ok. She also added that the boys didn’t lie about their ages just to join them so his concerns are unfounded. I watched as Boy A kept pushing his water bottle onto Xan’s worksheet (not that Xan was really writing anything constructive on it) and insisted the bottle was Xan’s just to irritate him. Luckily it stopped before either one decides to swing the bottle at the other’s head. Then Boy B decided the worksheet was a total waste of time, started to comment how stupid it was. Somewhere along line, my nephew said something about not know something, Boy B, the oldest kid in the group, suddenly pointed at my nephew’s forehead and shouted “…he doesn’t know because he’s STUPID!” Wah! At this point my blood began to boil! He had the audacity to say that while I was sitting right next to him!! The entire class fell silent and stared at the boy. Prior to this he had already irritated all 3 ladies at various times during the workshop but they all tried to tahan him and not scream at him. Won’t look good in front of me I guess. Miss Khoo’s face turned into several shades of black and sternly made him apologize to my nephew who by then was too shocked and embarrassed to speak. Boy B was defiant even after being made to apologize 3 times. I wished I was informed during registration that the other kids were THIS much older so that I can have the option to wait until they have a class of kids who are of a closer age group to our boys or to tell me frankly our boys are too young. When I had to relate this story to my nephew’s mum (my sister), I could tell she was extremely angry that her son was got bullied for no reason. I was embarrassed it happened and regret subjecting the boys to the wrath of the 2 bullies. Can you imagine if I was not there to witness all these first hand? I’m sorry but thinking back, I wished I had given both bullies a piece of my mind.

My conclusion

Our boys appeared to have enjoyed the workshop and even thought being in a class of older boys was cool. However when I asked them about the 2 boys they became visibly uncomfortable. The workshop is not recommended for kids under 6. If you must, it will be better to sign up with a group of your own kids. The course is simple and interesting. Venue and location very accessible and clean. Maybe I am out of touch with the ways of kids nowadays or you can even call me over protective to make such a big deal out of such a small situation. Well, I don’t think this is a small deal and I certainly have the right to share feel how I feel. Don’t fault the centre for the bad experience, I blame bad parenting for the big boys’ behavior. They clearly didn’t want to be there so why did their parents signed them up for it in the first place? You know what I think. I think their parents probably treated the centre as a dumping ground while they go run some errands. Sigh. I hope I don’t grow up to be like them.

pinhole 04
Xan not looking too pleased with his prints whereas his cousin was absolutely thrilled with his finished product.

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