Nature Study and Digital Photography: Would Anna Botsford Comstock Approve?

All three of my sons enjoy digital photography to capture our time outdoors.

A love of the natural world does not come automatically for all children and sometimes we need to find a way to hook them into getting outdoors. We live in a world of “wired” children….they have a lot of screen time each week as part of their normal routines. How do we get these children to move from their indoor screen to one that they can take outdoors?

Digital photography

  • It slows them down.
  • Helps them focus and really see an object.
  • Everyday things in their own backyard can now be captured and viewed.
  • They can see the beauty.
  • They make their own connections.
  • Perfect for our teens…they are comfortable with the technology and love to share with their friends.
My teens both had cameras on last year’s trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons. They took amazing images.

Would Anna Botsford Comstock and Charlotte Mason have approved of this use of technology in the natural world? I think they would have accepted that sometimes we need to help our children make connections in a way that is comfortable to them. If our 21st Century children are using technology on a regular basis, they are going to find it an easier transition to move from inside screen time to outside time with the aid of a digital camera.

Using this month’s Insect Grid (from the September newsletter) and a digital camera might be just the invitation your child needs to get started on their own outdoor experiences this month. There is also the Bug’s Eye View activity and notebook page from last week that could encourage a little outdoor time and allow some creativity. You don’t need to travel far to capture great images with your digital camera…your own backyard will reveal some interesting subjects for even the youngest photographer.

One of Mr. D’s calendar images.

I have encouraged my children to take digital photos for a long time now. This past summer, I challenged my oldest son to capture six images for next year’s family calendar. He blew me away with his nature photography! They are all stunning….I shared one of the photos above.

At some point we can hope that the technology is put away and our children just enjoy being outside but don’t overlook the power of digital photography to get your kids outside and exploring. 

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  1. Thank you Barb! I just blogged today about my kids’ disinterest in the small square study .. how they did it more as an assignment than a time of nature exploration. We have a couple of old, small, instant digital cameras and they love to take pictures! I think I will give this a try with them on Friday when we are doing our Queen Anne’s Lace study!!

    BTW … we have completed all three of the OHC so far, and I will be submitting them to the Carnival by the end of the week.

    Have a great day!

  2. If looking for and noticing details in nature, recording and expressing those details in a journal are the objectives, then digital photography does fulfill Charlotte Mason’s and Cromstock’s approach.
    There is sometimes the added benefit that when my children edit their photos on Picasa, they notice things they previously may have missed. And a collage of photos really can tell a whole story!
    Also,in the editting process, they can accentuate and highlight features that the normal eye doesn’t quite catch – lighting, colors, textures.
    My eldest’s photos are also works of art. I think that, like Georgia O’Keefe, who made people really “see” flowers in her art, so digital photos can make us really “see” nature too!
    None of this smacks of mere technology and I am always grateful when my children spend time enjoying nature and being outdoors. (In fact, my 12-year-old will receive a digital camera for her 13th birthday this weekend!)

  3. Nicole- What a great month you have had! I look forward to reading about your experiences.

    Nadene- We do notice a lot more detail when we pull the images up on our computer. It is a wonderful way to really see closely and make an real impression and connection.

  4. You make such an important point! Just as you and the others have said, when I ask my children to use the camera, they take full charge of their nature study. Focusing in and searching. They are on a hunt! Beautiful images and so wonderfully encouraging.

  5. This is such a great idea! My 8 year old twins asked for cameras for Christmas, and they have taken some pictures, but they haven’t really had many chances to take them out into nature. Now I know what I’m going to have them take pictures of. We live in Texas now, so we will be able to go outside all winter! We should get some great pictures. Thanks for the idea!

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