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Picture This: Kids and Cameras

Photography can serve as a catalyst to get children active in the outdoors.

By Earl Nottingham

Persuading today’s kids to step away from their computers, video games and smartphones to go outside and explore the natural world can be an exercise in futility. Our children’s world increasingly revolves around electronic-based entertainment and social interactions rather than quality time spent in the outdoors.

However, one electronic device, the digital camera, can be the catalyst that provides a gateway between technology and nature. In his book The Nature Principle, author Richard Louv describes this as “hybrid learning,” where technology and nature work together to create a new way of thinking.

The digital camera and its cousin the smartphone, with their varieties of menus and settings, are familiar interfaces to tech-savvy youngsters; just ask any parent who has had to ask a 6-year-old child to program a TV remote. The camera has the potential to become, in essence, an engaging electronic game, especially when it can be used in fun, challenging and even educational scenarios.

For instance, one simple game that can be enjoyed by kids and parents is a photo scavenger hunt. A list of common items in a park or yard can become the “hunted,” and a picture must be taken of each item. The items could be plants, animals, insects, colors, shapes, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Very simple point-and-shoot cameras with automatic settings are ideal because they allow children to get very good images without having to be concerned about any advanced camera controls.

It’s intriguing that children will often spend quite a bit of time composing each image in order to get it “just right.” The time spent looking through the viewfinder and the concentration required are the special moments that allow the child to experience the details and nuances of nature in this up-close and personal way.

After shooting pictures, children can make a scrapbook with captioned photos detailing the names of plants, animals, people or locations. Additionally, photos can be shared with friends via online photo- sharing sites such as Flickr and Instagram or social media sites such as Facebook. Pictures taken in a Texas state park can even be posted to that park’s social networking site.

Digital photography is a great tool not only to get today’s technology-oriented kids out and discover nature but also to preserve and share those discoveries with their family and friends.

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.state.tx.us.

 


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For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page

 

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