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Integration of Photography with Other Learning Experiences

Gerry Bader
Hackberry School, Hackberry, Louisiana, Grand Lakes School, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Subject: Photography
Grade: K-7 (Gifted and Talented)

"Every student I teach has requested photography to be one of the major areas of study to be undertaken next year. I don't think they'll ever tire of learning with photography."

Purpose and Description of Project

Gerry Bader used photography to integrate a variety of learning experiences for her 32 academically gifted and artistically talented awareness of how photography can be used to "communicate ideas and emotions." She was interested in promoting "individual vision, creative thinking, and maximum experimentation" by her students.

During the project, the students studied several books of professional photographic collections as well as family photos, learned about the operation of a 35 mm camera and how to process film and make prints, took their own photographs on field trips, and wrote about their photographs. Their work was exhibited at both schools from which the group was drawn.

Activities

Students began by discussing photography in general and watching a demonstration on how to use a 35 mm camera. They then studied their own families' old photos to learn more about their backgrounds and shared many of these pictures in class. Bader took this as "a natural opportunity to use the geographic locations in many of the photos to teach the students to use maps, atlases, and globes" and to have them write about what they had learned from the pictures.

Bader introduced several books of photographs to spur discussion about the emotions photos can generate, while also focusing on the geographic and environmental elements of the pictures. She then took students on "an observation and photographic expedition," during which they pointed out interesting lines, shapes, and textures, looked at subjects from different angles and distances, and took pictures of what they saw.

The students became aware of the use of photographs for scientific documentation by viewing a slide presentation on an archaeological dig and studying a research report from a nearby mosquito research center that made use of microscopic photography.

To learn about processing film and making prints, the students visited a local camera center. They also visited an art store to learn about framing, but their most exciting field trip was a nature walk and cook out at a campfire camp, where they took photos of nature scenes. The youngsters then put their knowledge to work by processing the negatives of these photos and making prints in a darkroom at one of the participating schools.

The final activity was for each student to write a story or poem about at least one of the photos he or she had taken during the project.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

Human resources included camera and art store personnel and parents who helped with field trip transportation.

Materials and equipment included darkroom equipment, Kodak developing chemicals and photographic paper, KODAK TRI-X Pan and PLUS-X Film, KODACHROME Slide Film, and a 35 mm camera. Some students used family cameras.

Outcomes and Adaptability

While Bader was pleased with the range of specific knowledge gained by her students in such areas as history, geography, and environmental awareness, she feels that the most important aspect of the project was "the opportunity for gaining knowledge through a variety of interesting avenues, using photography to pull it all together into one unified whole."

Although Bader believes that her use of photography to spur interdisciplinary learning could be applied by most teachers, she thinks it is especially helpful in unifying activities to suit the varied age and interest levels of a gifted and talented group.

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