For the past few years the Organization for the Assabet River has produced a series of workshops for young kids (age 6 to 12 or so) that teaches them about watersheds, plants and animals that live near or in the water, water quality testing, and the ecological web that we all live in. The workshops are repeated 3 times a week in different towns (Marlborough, Westborough, and Stow). For the final week in the workshops I lead a nature photography session with the kids.
I’ve got to be honest here – for this workshop photography is a “MacGuffin” (a term for a movie plot device, popularized by Alfred Hitchcock): the purpose is not so much to teach kids about photography (although we do our best to make them better photographers) but rather to show how photography can be a reason to get outside, away from the Wii, and interact with nature on a personal level.
The technical part of the workshop concentrates on the basics of focus and composition. I explain how the lens in their camera works (and why it might not work if you put it 2 inches from the subject) and why holding a camera with just your hands might not make it steady enough to make good pictures.
As a way of showing how their cameras can be made better without spending a lot of money I bring along some simple tripods: a couple of gorillapods and a bottlecap monopod (about $3 at the local hardware store) if they care to try them out.
Next I spend a few minutes presenting a very simplified version of the NANPA ethical field practices: learn about your subjects, don’t stress animals, stay on trails, respect the environment.
Then we go out and try to find interesting things to take pictures of and provide tips and suggestions as we explore. Mushrooms turn out to be excellent subjects.
The goal is to try to find a way to tie together the various lessons that were taught in the prior workshops and walking in the field with the kids creates opportunities for those discussions and thoughts to flow.
My thanks to interns Nitya and Saloni, and to OAR’s Educational Coordinator, Sarah Edwards for their help in making this year’s workshops a success.