Subject: Science: Biology and Photography
"Suddenly, I was thought to be an expert on wildflowers. Hardly a day went by that I was not asked such questions as, 'I saw a white flower about six inches tall with a lot of petals. What was it?'"
Not only did the photography students get new equipment and a new unit on developing and mounting slides, they wound up also learning about wildflowers. The biology students not only learned about flowers, they also got in on the photography events, and students in the gifted classes became involved with both the photography and wildflower aspects of the project. The school also now has a Photography Hall of Fame, and the winner of the first annual spring and fall photo contests has been honored with a plaque engraved with his name and the date.
Results of the project -- which will continue and expand -- Davis reports, include the photography contests; a set of 83 slides of 45 species of flowers, which are shown to biology classes and community groups such as garden clubs; and individual wild flower notebooks created by the biology students that include drawings, reports, and information on plants that are edible, poisonous, rare or endangered, used by wildlife for food, and beneficial for medicinal value. A less concrete but equally important result, adds the teacher, is that several classes of students and their families have become wild flower enthusiasts and have gained a greater appreciation for nature in general.
The photography students were then required to take slides of wild flowers and develop and mount them. Further, any of these students who identified a wild flower for Davis and provided basic information about it could gain extra credit. Since only one student could "claim" each flower, the teacher found students watching for her car in the morning to be sure they were the first for a particular flower.
The slides taken by these students were then used with Davis' biology classes to help them in identifying flowers growing in their county. These students were also required to put together individual wild flower notebooks and to learn about taxonomy (the study of the general principles of scientific classification) so that they could also use a list of key characteristics to categorize flowers. Many students involved their families in the project and were surprised how much their parents, grandparents, and neighbors already knew about flowers. They came back with comments such as "My neighbor said this flower (bloodroot) was used by the Indians to make war paint. Is that true?" These community members also formed an "early warning system" to inform students that certain flowers were beginning to bloom.
As a result of these activities, students produced the core of a growing slide collection and will be participating in twice-yearly photo contests at the school, with awards including both monetary prizes and (for the top winner) a tuition-free photography workshop sponsored by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Students used their own 35 mm cameras or borrowed cameras from the school. The teacher purchased for the school KODAK EKTACHROME 64 Film, a bulk loader, KODAK EKTACHROME E-6 Kit for processing, and slide mounts. Students not in photography classes used outside processing. An instant slide printer was used to make prints from slides to include in various products. A school slide projector and screen were also used to show slides at school.
Davis' biology students' ability to identify wild flowers soared, and many earned extra credit-some enough to pull up otherwise failing grades for the semester. The school art teacher will also be using some of the slides from which her students will do drawings and paintings. In addition, the local civic league has asked if it can adopt the school and help students develop a wildflower garden on the campus.
Davis thinks that any school could adapt this project to study
area flowers and plants, or use similar techniques to study historical
sites, rock and earth formations, or local fauna. If a school
has no photography class, she notes, students and teachers in
the subject matter areas could shoot their own slides.