Do you have a camera for children's photography?
Whether you share your camera, smartphone, or tablet; or have a dedicated camera for kids to use, photography is an incredible addition to the Early Childhood classroom.
I sketched out a few reasons why real cameras are a great classroom tool.
The camera lets us look at the world through fresh eyes.
The world through the naked eye and the world through the viewfinder of a camera feel different - using a camera is a unique experience. When children use a real camera, they get to try on a different perspective; and as educators, we have the opportunity to see the world through children's eyes when we experience their photographs.
Photography is one way to include student voices in documentation and stories of learning.
You may be collecting photographs of children at play and examples of their work and their words. When we offer children a camera, we offer them a tool for sharing their perspective. We can include that perspective when telling stories of learning to parents, families, and colleagues! Including children's photography in digital and print documentation, and children's portfolios, adds another viewpoint on learning.
Photography is super engaging!
You know those timeless, tried-and-true materials that seem to engage everyone, week after week (and year after year)? Blocks, paint, play dough, water - these are some universal and engaging materials that many Early Childhood Educators use in their classrooms. Real cameras are highly engaging for children: they are not pretending to take photographs, they really are! And, when we reflect on those photographs with children, their engagement continues. Children love to see the world through that little screen, and also the images of familiar faces and things in printed photos in the classroom, or a reflective slideshow.
A photograph can be realistic or imaginative. (Kids get to choose!)
I have observed dozens of children in my classrooms over the years with cameras, and they can take a realistic or an imaginative approach to photography. A child may take ten photos of a favorite object in the classroom, or see what it feels like to move the camera while pressing the shutter. There is no wrong way to take photos - the tool is there to experiment with. As adults, we get pretty rigid in our thinking, but children see the playfulness of photography. When we give children the space to make these choices, they are free to explore, which is exciting and engaging.
Photography is more accessible than ever.
Gone are the cameras that my parents had to deal with: they gave me a 35mm point and shoot camera when I was a kid, I promptly used up all the film with pictures of my stuffed animals, and then they had to pay to get the film developed, and get more film. Digital photography is very cheap, and chances are, you already have everything you need! You can use an old point and shoot camera; you can use any computer or screen to put together digital slideshows for reflection; you can share children's photography with parents and families through email, a class website, or shared photo albums.