MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many of you probably took lots of pictures over the weekend or maybe even received a new digital camera as a Christmas gift.
Instead of taking lots of picture of your family members and friends, consider stepping outside and taking some photos of nature.
That is what thousands of school kids around the state started doing this past summer, thanks to an experiment by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
This week, we are literally Finding Minnesota through the lens of a camera.
What if someone placed something in your child’s hands that transformed a routine lesson in science or math into something irresistibly cool?
Last summer, Carrol Henderson of the DNR, helped launch a statewide program called “Digital Photography Bridge to Nature.”
“The kids, when you put a camera in their hands, they change entirely. They become so interested in nature, they are looking and listening and watching,” Henderson said.
And, they are learning. The goal was to get young people as excited about birds and bugs, trees and plants as folks from generations past.
“What you may call the ‘gee whiz’ instant gratification, techy factor that the kids get from this, makes it fun for them. They are not just looking at an animal and walking away from it, they are taking its picture and then going back and trying to find out what it is and how it fits into the environment,” Henderson said.
The DNR bought 500 small digital cameras, then got help from professional photographers to train school teachers in grades 3 through 9.
In six months, they exceeded their goal for the whole year, training about 450 teachers across the state.
The teachers borrow the cameras and then take students on photo safaris in their neighborhoods.
“And the most important thing for teachers is that all of our workshops for teachers are free, and use of the camera kit after the workshop is free. Everything is free, all paid for by the environment and natural resources trust fund through the state, that means we are using lottery proceeds to help fund this as a two-year grant,” Henderson said.
The feedback from teachers has been great, so much so that many of them are now starting photography clubs at their schools.
And the DNR says they are getting calls from people in other states, who want to find out how they too can build a digital bridge to nature.
The first training workshop for teachers was taught by National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenberg. It was at Blue Mound State Park.
The next workshop is this coming Wednesday at Whitewater State Park. Click on the link below for more information on the program.
Minnesota DNR: Digital Photography Bridge To Nature
WCCO-TV’s Angela Davis Reports