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Freshman Orientation

Donna Wilson
Contoocook Valley Regional High School, Peterborough, New Hampshire

Subject: Photography
Grade: 9-12

"Supporting current research on different cognitive styles of learning, the students benefited by 'seeing' the information, as well as hearing and reading about it."

Purpose and Description of Project

The purpose of Donna Wilson's project was to prepare a slide/sound presentation designed to introduce eighth-grade students to the academic courses and extracurricular activities at the regional high school. The project, entitled "Freshman Orientation," was the creation of student volunteers; their only common trait was an interest in photography and their skill levels ranged from beginning to advanced photographers. The students met after school to complete the presentation with Wilson, a guidance counselor, serving as faculty advisor for the group.


Students decided among themselves who would photograph which classes and activities; each was made responsible for a specific number of photos to complete and given a definite deadline. This made planning essential because they had to share one camera borrowed from the Media Center. Experienced photographers shared their knowledge with novices as they photographed ninth-grade classes, sports events, club meetings, pep rallies, and other activities. As a group they decided which slides to use and in what order to present them. They consulted teachers and department heads to gather specific information on courses, recommendations for college and vocational bound students, and required and elective courses. The students added their own suggestions on "pitfalls" to avoid. One student was chosen to write appropriate narration for each slide, and another to record it. Wilson and her students presented "Freshman Orientation" to eighth-grade students in the nine towns served by the high school prior to their choosing their ninth-grade courses; a question-and-answer session followed each presentation.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

Wilson was the only non-student participant. In addition to serving as the group's advisor, she supplied the KODAK ELITE Chrome Slide Film for the students, had the slides developed, and accompanied the students on their presentations to assist them in answering questions. The 35 mm camera and slide/sound projector were supplied by the high school.

Outcomes and Adaptability

Wilson finds that "The high school students who worked on the project learned not only the expected photography skills, particularly in the areas of lighting and composition, but many interpersonal skills as well." The latter skills were evident as they shared photography knowledge, brainstormed ideas, provided and accepted constructive criticism, and reached consensus decisions. Wilson says all participants showed self-motivation, task commitment, and the ability to plan and manage their time.

The slide/sound presentation clearly achieved its objective of orienting the eighth graders in a new and different way. They listened to the presentations without becoming restless and they delighted in recognizing former classmates. It was also evident that they had retained much of the course information because they had much less difficulty than previous eighth graders when it came time to make their course selections. Faculties were also pleased that all junior high schools received the same orientation.

"Minimal expenses, equipment, and adult involvement make this project ideal for replication in any school environment," according to Wilson. A slide projector and tape recorder could be substituted for the slide/sound projector, or students could provide "live" narration. Though this project was designed for orientation, a similar presentation could be shown to parents, transfer students, community groups, etc. The project could be prepared by art classes, photography clubs, student councils, or others. It also could be adapted for elementary students entering junior high school.

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