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Photography workshop seeks to get students outdoors

Photography workshop seeks to get students outdoors
Photos by Michele Jokinen, mjokinen@postbulletin.com Austin Early Childhood Family Education co-workers Cassie Boettcher, left, and Julie Hecimovich work with digital cameras during the Digital Photography Bridge to Nature workshop for educators Monday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin. The workshop, sponsored by the Minnesota DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program, is designed to help teachers incorporate digital photography into their classroom curricula.

With all the computer games, video games and technological gadgets kids have access to these days, going to enjoy the outdoors might not be as popular for youngsters as it once was.

Enter: digital photography photo safaris.

"It's become so accessible," said Roger Everhart, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources facilitator. "The technology is really changing the way we can use it."

Getting kids to venture outside with cameras and "use photography as a hook," Everhart said. That was the message of the "Digital Photography — Bridge to Nature" workshop for educators Monday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. It was a workshop sponsored by the Minnesota DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program.

The goal was to show teachers how to use digital cameras and how to take their students out of the classroom and on outdoor "photo safaris" to incorporate photos in a variety of school subjects.

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"It's just a wonderful way to get kids outside," said DNR facilitator Kristi Lindquist.

Because of electronics such as computers and Wii, there's been a decline in kids getting outside,  Everhart said. Along with propelling them to be outdoors, another piece of the puzzle is getting kids asking questions and making observations.

Teachers at the workshop received a certificate of completion and continuing education credits. The goal is for teachers across the state to check out camera kits (with 12 cameras and field guides) for their classrooms during the school year, working photography into their curricula.

It's the second year of the program. So far, about 750 teachers have been trained. The goal is 1,000.

Digital photography can be used in many school subjects, including science, math, art, geography, engineering, journaling and environmental education. Everhart and Lindquist covered techniques and topics, such as framing and patterns, that teachers can provide to give students direction.

"Our belief is that you can use photography in a curriculum area that you teach ... to enhance your curriculum," Everhart said.

Then you have all these photos. What do you do with them? Lindquist went through a variety of options for programs and websites students can use.

"It's just another way to pull it in and match their interests," Lindquist said.

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Kathryn Burke is a former teacher at Pacelli Catholic Schools and is now a national park ranger in Utah. Before the workshop, she had dabbled in digital photography, mostly as a hobby, she said.

"I see a camera as a tool for documenting meaning of a place or an experience," Burke said. "It's a way of defining the place by the pictures you make of it."

The workshop will be an added tool in her repertoire as a park ranger, she said. It's part of her job to connect visitors with the resources of the park.

"And what better way to do it?" she said. "Everybody has a camera."

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