Have you ever noticed something “new”on a path you regularly follow – your commute, the walk to the mailbox, to the store, etc – only to realize that it’s been there all along?
The outdoors are intriguing for children. They are constantly poking, smelling, and asking questions to make sense of the natural phenomena that are happening around them, to better understand their place in the natural world, and how change – visible, tangible and, best of all, *real* change – affects them
A while back, when I was in the classroom, I came across a gem called “The Path: A One Mile Walk Through The Universe,” by Chet Raymo. He talks about the route that he took to go to work every day and how he learned about the universe right there, in that one-mile stretch. He made fascinating scientific connections and historical discoveries every day.
During our walk the other day (interestingly, about a mile in all), the boys didn’t have an overly-structured plan. They had their cameras, eyes and feet. One rode a scooter and the other walked. They both knew we would print their pictures in the afternoon and one was especially excited about that.
The cameras served as great tools for the children. They brought back a collection of images that helped them remember their walk down the path. No need to collect bugs, logs or other souvenirs: “Leave only footprints, take only photographs.” For me, the cameras provided insight into what they got out of the experience, what intrigued them enough to be worth recording. I also learned about the connections they made and the misconceptions that needed clarification. They solved problems along the way and even learned some basic photography skills. What to do when the light is too bright (over exposed), when there is too much shadow on the subject, or how to white balance the camera to keep the colors close to the real picture. One of the children saw a snake but felt that it was not visible enough in his camera (mind you that the camera’s viewfinder is only 2″ tall and wide). His solution? He zoomed in, took pictures of its head, and sections of his body until he reached the end – you can see that in the video! The benefits are too numerous to list in full here.
Documenting the experience later, and thereby revisiting portions of the trip, cements important connections in the brain that started on the walk itself. It makes learning visible not only for the adults around them but for themselves. When we saw the caterpillar on the road, one of the boys wondered about what it would be like to count the steps that it took to cross the road. When he saw the picture, he tried to use simple math to calculate the steps according to how many legs he thought the bug had. The kids were deepening the initial connections that they made during their walk down this path.
While we walked they constantly wondered about what the animals were thinking, what their birthdays were like, etc. Using video sometimes in addition to still pictures allows you to capture that stream-of-consciousness thought process, which then becomes part of the reflection and informs their choice of captions, etc.
The best part of this project is that it doesn’t end. Every time they re-read this book, someone notices something else that they had discovered.
Set-Up for Episode #27:
- Any point-and-shoot camera (or a phone) will do – the children had a Canon PowerShot A495 which can also take small videos.
- Recharged batteries for the ride.
- Affordable printing services.
- Recycled cardboard boxes (i.e.: cereal, granola bars, pasta, etc).
- Writing tools (i.e.: markers, colored pencils, pens, etc).
Did you know that your cereal box comes with a book in it?
A bird’s eye view of the book:
The snake page:
They decided to mail this to friends who are coming to visit us from Seattle in the Fall (the asked them to bring it back with them!):
A brochure of sorts:
One of the children decided to bind his book and document his trip without the cereal box:
We are now exploring the idea of making a map of the path (sounds like a future episode!) and placing pictures of what you might find and where to find them. One of the boys has already planned on going back when the seasons change and has turned this into a long term project – I am personally intrigued as well!
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