encouraging a child to learn

Some of the digi photog kids

My sister teaches in a school district that could be considered less than stellar. There are metal detectors at the doors, the kids have to carry mesh back-packs, they aren’t allowed lockers and must wear uniforms to school. They are also given a complementary breakfast and .10 lunches because that is just the level of poverty of the greater majority of her students. Sometimes there are far greater disadvantages than just the poverty levels of the kids and sometimes there are just some bad apples as well.

She’s been through some riots. She’s been through some lock-downs on campus. There have been some even scarier moments in her ample career with these kids given all the insane changes happening in Texas education, but she still tries to engage them and keep them somewhat interested in learning. It helps, I’m sure that she has the Pre-ap and GT kids but even some of the kids in regular classes seemed really interested in our project today, which is encouraging, given the conditions and situation.

Our project, for the past few years, is to use digital photography as a way to introduce and strengthen science concepts with her kids. I volunteer after school and on weekends to teach them how to work with a camera (I have two point-and-shoots and she has two as well and then whatever cameras they hopefully have-which can mean upwards of 40 kids trying to use less than 8 cameras) to capture physical and life science concepts. My sister, of course, handles all the science aspects. The photos are then printed, matted and entered into Science Fair and also into a photography contest at a local park (if they so choose).

The kids are so incredibly grateful and polite, it just blows my mind every time. They gave me flowers and a card today for my help and one girl gave me a hug. I also get a hug every time a kid from last year comes back to visit. Seeing them at the local arboretum is so heart-warming/wrenching it was like Disneyland for some of the kids (of course not all of the kids were so sheltered) they couldn’t imagine something so beautiful, well-tended and manicured being free to the public.

Today I went to the school for their in School Science Fair where we judged their photos and picked the kids that will go on to the District Science Fair in a few weeks. Some of the kids didn’t come to any of our group sessions and their pictures really showed it, which made me feel good to a point, I didn’t want any of the kids to feel like I wasn’t a value add for them (ACK PROJECT MANAGEMENT REARS IT’S UGLY HEAD) but I don’t like any kids in that kind of situation to feel worse. When I wandered the room “judging” it was more talking to the kids about how they got the picture they got and quick tips about what they could do better, how they could try it differently in the future, if they wanted to.

There are several kids that have a natural talent and several more that worked really hard at getting a good picture. I am really proud of the work that they are putting out there. I can’t wait to see how they do at District. I really hope they do well, it will be such a great esteem boost!

They’ve done some fundraising and so far they’ve raised enough to get one new camera (or maybe some used ones if we hit a pawn shop or something) which is awesome, I mean every little bit helps. Some teachers inquired about buying prints, but no one came through on that end once my sister actually offered it, hopefully that changes and the kids will get more cameras, it’s a bit of a goat rodeo to work with the small numbers we have, but you do what you can.

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