Yellowstone Academy

Well, I promised to post soon about what I am doing at Yellowstone Academy, so I thought I'd go ahead and fill y'all in on the gist of what I am doing.

In the spring of 2008, during my final semester at the University of Texas, I decided I wanted to start a photo program with a school that I used to volunteer with while I was in high school.  The name of the school is Yellowstone Academy, and it is a private, Christian school (pre-K-6th...but will be adding through 8th grades) for underprivileged children of Houston.  It is an awesome place, with an incredible and extremely dedicated staff.  Please check out Yellowstone's website here for more information about their school and students.

Sometime before my spring semester in 2008, I had read an article in National Geographic about a photographer who had taught children in Israel how to take photos.  It was very powerful, watching these young children essentially learn a new language, a new way to speak and tell their story.  Some of the photos were very beautiful, and I remember thinking, how cool would it be for the children at Yellowstone to be able to tell their stories!  How empowering.  How beautiful.  

Therefore, for my final semester's project at UT, my professor graciously allowed me to travel to Houston to spend time with and teach the 4th grade class at Yellowstone about photography.  I would go down to Houston every other week, and meet with the 4th graders in the after school program (at the time, the 4th graders were the oldest children).  We learned about the basics of photograph, composition, light, and tried to discuss photography as a language.  We used Olympus point and shoot cameras.

The following spring 2009, I continued the project, and I had mostly new kids in my class.  Again, we used the Olympus point and shoot cameras, and I did my best to teach them about photography.  I continued to give the children in my class different assignments every couple weeks, and we would meet weekly on Wednesdays.  However, I had trouble getting my students to focus on a project--they just wanted to snap pictures on the playground, and of their friends.  They took some wonderful photos during the semester, and like the year before, I put together a show for them at their school, with their framed and signed work.

However, this year I decided I would like for my students to begin thinking more about the photos that they are taking.  The children are in Middle School now, 6th grade!  And I believe they are certainly capable of learning how to use a true, manual 35mm film SLR (I also learned in middle school).  Therefore, I spent the beginning of the fall buying up used Pentax K1000s off of eBay for the students to learn with this year.  We had our first class in the middle of October, and are again meeting weekly on Wednesdays!

So wish me luck!  I'm trying to find fun ways to teach these kids the concepts of lighting, exposure, and the functions of their new cameras.  I think last week I bored them to tears, teaching about shutter speed.  This week we are just going to try and have fun.  I'm going to make a camera out of their science lab room!  A camera obscura...I'll take some photos of the day and post them online soon.