(Source: Shared by Chris Earley, Interpretive Biologist and Education Coordinator at the Arboretum, University of Guelph, who drew the original idea from a book called Rediscovery, Ancient Pathways, New Directions by Thom Henley, 1989 & 1996)
Process Skills: Observing, listening, describing, communicating
Time required: 20 – 30 minutes
Supplies needed: Focus on Nature field notebooks or simple index cards, pencils
Learning Objectives: To develop students’ visual awareness/observational skills and attention to detail. To encourage concentration and awareness of their surroundings. To familiarize students with the basic workings of a camera.
Tips: This is another fun one to do before you bring out the cameras, to remind students that you may not always have a lot of time to look at something, but if you really concentrate, your brain will take it in. It reminds me of my mother saying to me, each time I got very excited as a child about something beautiful in nature and longed for my camera: “Take a picture with your eyes!”
Details: Students are divided into pairs, with one student choosing to be the “photographer” first and the other choosing to be the “camera”. The photographer asks the “camera” to close its shutter (eyes) and turns him/her around several times before leading the camera to a special place (within a certain natural area.) The photographer then directs the camera, setting arranging his/her legs (or asking him/her to move) to make the shape of a tripod, and moving his/her head and arms in creative ways to form camera.
The camera must stay very still (no moving since your photo will be blurry!), and when the photographer says “click” (and adds a gentle pull of the ear, or push down on his/her head) the camera takes a picture with his/her eyes.
The photographer is asked to count to 5 while the camera opens his/her eyes, then shuts them again on 5. The photographer is encouraged to observe what the camera is seeing during this time (as is the camera).
After the photographer takes the photo, he or she becomes the “camera”, and goes through the same motions. After both “cameras” have taken a photo, they asked to draw what the other saw in their field notebooks or on a card. Then the camera goes on a hunt, using the drawing to find what their photographer took a photo of (because they were lead to the spot with their shutters closed). At the end, the camera gives their drawing to their photographer, since the photographer “took” the photo – a nice sharing opportunity.
Afterwards everyone can compare notes, and have a discussion as a class about each partner saw and didn’t see! This is a great exercise for warming up the group, encouraging positive interaction, and for getting students to think (and observe) like a photographer.