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Most schools have a few digital cameras sitting around the media center and lots of students have them at home. These can become exceptionally powerful tools for teaching science especially when the seasons change.
Around your school there are interesting places that change with the seasons. This can be a particular tree or a grassy spot where a garden spider gets busy in the fall with large webs to trap some food. Few folks look at photos that compare spots from season to season. I know when a site changes due to a flood or another type of disaster the before and after photos are valuable especially if they show photos shot from the same spot in both cases. There are several at this simple site:
To get started it is important to have a plan that ties to your current unit of study or a future unit of study. If you are studying seasons that is a natural connection. Your kids could embark on a photo safari around the school yard taking photos of specific sites that they will photograph each month. These photos make incredible displays for your room and powerful powerpoints.
I would have the kids develop a plan before the safari and keep a log of each photo they took and write some notes on the shot. Good photographers keep very accurate logs. To practice writing the students could develop longer descriptions of what they saw when they were taking the photograph or to point out key items in the photograph. It is helpful to keep this consistent for all students so there is something you can discuss as a group.
If the seasons are not your focus you could center the photos on simple machines, health, chemistry in our world, plants or even animals. It would be interesting to open the idea up a bit and ask the kids to take some photos that illustrate what you are currently studying. Since my class is deep in atomic theory right now I could imagine some photos of phases of matter (solid, liquid and gas) or perhaps some photos of physical and chemical changes (melting, burning, rust, or even boiling).
There are lots of ways to get photos to use as illustrations in class. Remember that fair use policies restrict your ability to publish pr print many photos but a one time use in the classroom showing on a screen is generally acceptable. One of my favorite sites for interesting photos is Blipphoto.
Google images is a very powerful search tool. You can click on Google then images and type in any search parameters to find some amazing images. Phases of the moon brings up illustrations and photographs that seem to go on forever.
I don’t generally recommend research to read in my blog but there is an interesting piece about this topic. A researcher at Cleveland State University used student’s digital photography to see how students viewed science. These were urban kids. To see that these kids see science as both physical and biological is not surprising. It was interesting (and a bit sad) to see that kids generally avoid photos that show the process of doing science. Rather they focus on natural objects (trees, rocks, bugs). When they are prompted to take photos of them doing science the whole mindset changes.
So, grab a few cameras and your students. It is time for a walk outside to gather some photo food for great discussions when the snow is flying.