Here are some great tips to enhance the classroom and learning experience using photography.
1. How We Grow. Photograph the children by a measuring stick or mark on the wall. Consider having them photograph each other. Take some early, mid-year and end of year images and let them see, measure and discuss the differences. Talk about things that would affect the accuracy of the measurement (shoes, hair, posture, camera angle, etc.)
2. Nature Walk. Take the class on a nature hike and try to identify plants, animals and rocks. For those that can’t be identified, take the images later and use them to look up the item. Print out photos of the items to display when it’s cold outside, and save some for your seasonal bulletin boards.
3. Photo Gifts. Have each child take a photo of themselves or other subject and have them make a gift, such as a card or other craft to give as a holiday or occasion gift.
4. Local Print Sponsor. Ask one of the local businesses such as a grocery or drug store to donate some number of digital prints or developing services, so the class can choose the best pictures and have them printed on nice paper.
5. Photo Club. Consider creating a photo club as an after-school or activity period club. Look for sponsors to provide funding for disposable cameras and film, or a couple of good digital cameras. Approach a local photographer to be a club instructor, mentor or speaker. See my article on Photo Club Activities for more ideas.
6. Theme Bulletin Boards. Before you build those boards yourself, share the theme with your kids and get some volunteers to take some photos to support the theme.
7. Kid Camera Weekend. Assign a digital camera to one child each weekend for them to take home. Ask them to take photos of their experiences – family, pets, activities and ask them also to take a creative photo or one that represents their personality. Then in the following week, have them build a slide show and share with the class. You may need to have editorial review on some of those photos!
8. Computer Editing Skills. Digital photography will be a part of every child’s life. Why not offer basic photo editing as part of the computer skills curriculum? You can also have some creativity at play – see who can come up with the most interesting edit of a standard photograph.
9. Photography as Art. Have the students understand some of the artistic elements of photography – composition, lighting, posing, editing and printing for example. Perhaps have them review certain famous works or photographers and choose one to study or emulate.
10. Yearbook and Newspaper. Classroom candids, school life and special events are all great opportunities for children to get involved. Also consider having an online newsletter or blog built by and maintained by the students. Allowing students to actively photograph assemblies and other special events promotes responsibility, creativity and leadership.
11. School Tour. Producing a book or video for new students is a great service that your students can perform. They can gain experience in storyboarding, scripting, recording, photographing, editing and producing. A video or annotated slide show produced by the students and approved by the administration is a great tool and also a great testimony to the trust and responsibility that the school gives the children.
12. Time Lapse. Science classes, especially biology, lend themselves to time lapse photography. Define the rules (how often, how to set up, who takes photos), and capture the sprouting and growth of plants, or the growth rate of animals in your classroom. Also, taking a photo outside of your windows every day will make a really neat weather/climate video near the end of the year. The key is consistency and follow-through to stitch the photos together in a movie format.
13. International Photo Pals. Consider hooking your kids up with some other schools across the planet, and trading photos on specific subjects a few times each year. For example, you could do a set on food, and have the kids photograph their lunch experience and some of the foods that are common to their school and area. You could focus on clothing, customs, holidays, sports, local environment and lots of other subjects. The kids will be excited to send and receive these electronic photo packets.
14. Photo Contest. Teach the children about evaluating photos. Develop a score sheet with their inputs and some general guidelines. Have each child submit a small number of photos for blind evaluation. Encourage each evaluator to find positive things in each photograph. The top 3-5 from each class go to a grade-level round, and the top grade level compete for over-all school awards. Everyone will have fun taking, editing, evaluting and following the contest. The winner can get a certificate and perhaps the local paper would print the image along with an article written by some of the students. Or, a local photographer may agree to work with the student to get the image professionally printed and framed.
15. See the Numbers. When explaining large numbers to kids, photographs of the items will be handy. How about 1 Million? Consider having them count out 1,000 of something like paper clips, then photographing and printing 10 copies. That can be 10,000. Then take a picture of those 10 pictures, duplicate it 10 times and you have 100,000. Once more and you have 1 Million, and you can show the groups of 10 pictures beside each other on a board to show the scale.
16. See the History. Field trips to local museums or historical areas are good opportunities to capture history. You can collect some of those images and use them as study guides – the kids can remember the trip through the images and reinforce their learning. Also, you can ask them to photograph or bring in the oldest thing in their family and talk about it.
17. See the Health. Students can stage and photograph healthy activities and lifestyle and can build a book or board to share with others.
Have fun incorporating these ideas into your classroom experiences. If your school or classroom does not have a digital camera, contact your community foundations, retail stores and local photographers to ask for help in obtaining usable digital cameras and software.