Thursday, March 23, 2006

Digital Cameras, Kids, and Summer Projects

By Christina VanGinkel

I was asked to come up with a class for this summer, which would combine a nature walk with kids, and a finished project when the class was done, something that they could actually hold, take home, and use. The classes are part of a summer project put together the past few years by an organization wanting to keep the local youth occupied. The person overseeing the classes has said that in years past, the projects were ok, but nothing substantial that she felt as if the kids would have a real lasting memory of having learned something. This was not a lot of information to go on, but I said I would mull the idea over for a few days and get back to her when (and if!) I had a plan. The class itself would be held in three sessions, over an extended one-week period, she added, so if the project, whatever it was going to be, needed time to 'cure', maybe if we used clay, or something like that, there would be available time. The first class would be held on a Saturday afternoon, with the second class Wednesday evening, and the final class on the following Saturday, the same time as the first class.

I am not a 'clay' type person, per se, and even though I have a friend who is, I have never really delved into that field at all, always leaving it to her. I disregarded the idea of anything with beads, even though I temporarily thought of making dream catchers. That would be more of a single class deal. I could think of a lot of projects not to do, but none that I could. Then it hit me, and I knew what I was going to do with the outdoors, kids, a finished project, my digital camera, and journals!

The first day of the class, we would take our planned hike. They with their journals in hand, hopefully donated by a local organization, or otherwise I figured a standard notebook would suffice. I would want to stiffen up the covers for them, if we used notebooks, but as long as I could get a couple of cardboard boxes to cut apart, that would not be that difficult. They would each need a couple of good sketching pencils too, but when a local Dollar store had went out of business last year, I had picked up several packs of sketching pencils, so those I could donate. I would take along my digital camera.

With camera in hand, I would photograph local fauna and flora, and they would make notes in their journals about the subjects. They would be encouraged to point out what they each wanted photographed. I also planned to take one photo of the whole group of kids. The notes would not be anything technical, more thoughts about what they liked or did not like about the subjects. After the hike, when they headed home, I would download all of the photographs and create a mosaic of them, to be printed in a size that they could apply the mosaic to the cover of their journals. I would also make a single print of each photograph and put them up on a bulletin board for the kids to use as models to sketch from. On Wednesday evening, they could work on assembling the journals, gluing the covers on, and adding any sketches, they would like. I would also provide each of them with a copy of the group photo for them to end their journals with. On the following Saturday, the last day of the class, I think it would be fitting to have each of the kids read one notation from their journal (you can never give kids too much experience at talking in a group format!) out loud, and have an open session where they could ask questions about the items they included in their journals. If necessary, they could also do any final additions needed on their sketches if they wanted.

I still need to run this idea by the person putting the classes together, but in the meanwhile, I am constantly amazed at what my digital camera can be used to do. Thanks to being able to review in an instant, any snapshots I have taken, I can be assured that even a project such as this can be pulled off with little fuss.

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