Photography has been called “the art of seeing” (Freeman Patterson) and as such it can be a powerful tool for cultivating our observational skills, enticing us to slow down and pay attention to the details we might normally pass by.
Photographer Chris Orwig put it beautifully when he wrote: “Learning to see is about approaching life from a new perspective and rediscovering a wonderment with the world.” (2010, 33)
Can you remember that first time you saw a ladybug walking on your hand or a glistening raindrop suspended from a spider web? Those were magical, awe inspiring experiences! Focus on Nature tries to bring that sense of wonder and fascination back to young people and adults alike – that experience of seeing something for the very first time. World renowned photographer Dorothea Lange said that “a camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
The value of photography goes beyond enhancement of students’ observational skills and excitement about nature. The arts in general have been shown to enhance student focus, engagement in learning, and depth of understanding in a variety of disciplines. Increasingly teachers are understanding this. One need only review the work of Learning through the Arts (LTTA) to understand this shift. Through discussions with teachers in our own community we’ve found that many of them want to use photography in their classrooms as a tool for engagement, and to accommodate differentiated learning styles, but most did not feel competent to teach photography, or teach through photography.
We hope that we are changing that and can have an impact on teachers and their schools so that photography can play a key role in helping to engage students in learning, connect with the natural world, and express their creativity.