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Lights! Camera! Action! Focus on nature

Cameras can be an integral part of learning, as Carol Keezer will attest. (Steve Maanum / Enterprise)

Do you remember the first camera you ever owned? Was it a Kodak, or a Polaroid Land camera (photo in 60 seconds), or an Argus 35 mm? Maybe you grew up through the Instamatic generation. Whatever it was, I'm sure we all took photos, sent them in to be processed (in days, not hours) and then filled desk drawers with them or put them in family photo albums. I still dig those albums out once in awhile to revisit times gone.

I don't think that any of us ever had the slightest hint of the digital age that has descended on us from all directions. I mean, think about it - taking a photo with your telephone, that's something straight out of a James Bond movie. Digital cameras have made photography so much more accessible to all of us. Maybe that's why the 2008 survey published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service titled, "National Trends in Outdoor Recreation" (2001 - 2006) found that wildlife watching had risen by 8 percent and nature photography had risen by 35 percent. During the same time freshwater fishing went down by 14 percent, and hunting went down by 10 percent.

Look around this weekend or look at the traffic the November deer season brings to our area. I hope it's an indication that Minnesota's fishing and hunting traditions are still strong and not a reflection of that national survey.

Our state is a reflection of the increase in nature photography interest, though. In the past couple of weeks I have helped a group of educators learn how to use digital cameras so they can use them as a teaching tool with their students, I have assisted a group of adults in a basic digital photography workshop, and I have placed cameras into the hands of over 200 4th and 5th graders as they incorporated them into their classroom lessons.

With the pressure teachers are under to meet education standards and the pressure schools are under to increase student test scores, it may appear that there is certainly no time for such activities as playing around with cameras. Actually, digital photography can be used to meet education standards and help raise test scores.

In 2007 the Minnesota Department of Education stated, "Science is the active study of nature, its structures and its processes. Science students use their senses and tools to observe, record, and analyze data about the natural world. Scientifically literate young people can understand phenomena, solve problems, and produce new technologies for today's world."

From that I conclude that if we're going to raise science test scores, we have to not only interest kids in science; we have to involve them.

Cameras can be used in any subject as a tool to enhance classroom learning, much like a microscope is used by a science student or a calculator is used by a math student.

Minnesota's Digital Bridge to Nature project will conduct 80 teacher workshops over the next two years. Contact me for more information at sd

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