I have little use for most technology. I can lock up three computers all at the same time. But I understand that technology is an awesome tool. At this year’s Cub Scout camp at Twin Pines, we used technology to help kids explore nature. We did the usual fishing, archery and hiking, but this year, then we introduced the Cubs to nature up close and personal through the lens of a digital camera.
We gave the Scouts a few overall tips about framing photos and making sure their subjects don’t have “antlers” sticking out of their heads. We asked them to think about the story their photos would tell. We also asked them to think about their point of view. We encouraged them to change their perspective, to not be afraid to go eye-to-eye with nature to get the right photo. Then we loaned each boy a camera provided by a grant from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, and the group headed out on the trail with extra batteries.
At first their photos were silly—close-up shots of each other’s eyes, funny faces, etc. It seems like they just have to get that out of their system, but it also helps them learn to look. Then they settled down to taking photos of holes in logs, plants and bugs—and to asking questions. Lots of questions. The questioning seemed to help them slow down and look for that next great shot. What might be in that hole, or under that rock, trying to find the perfect place to den up for the winter? So many pictures, so many stories. As their cameras were clicking, so were their minds. The progression of photos throughout the day was incredible. Because they were moving slowly and carefully, they found a wood duck they normally would have walked right past. It was wonderful seeing and hearing the boys “shush” each other for a change.
At the end of the day, we printed each boy’s photos and returned them, along with a photo album, for them to tell the story of their day at Twin Pines. Some of the photos were really good, and some will probably end up in the recycling—but the important lesson for the day wasn’t framing photos and camera settings. It was slowing down and taking a closer look at the world around them, getting the lowdown on nature and listening to the story it has to tell.
As the holidays approach, you might consider getting your young child or grandchild his or her first digital camera. But don’t stop there—plan an outing and encourage the young folks in your life to slow down and use the camera to see and understand our connections to nature.