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Nature through the Lens of a Camera


In this lesson, students are given the opportunity to see the beauty and wonder of nature from a different perspective. They are exposed to techniques which help them develop their photography skills and enable them to capture what they are seeing around them in an artistic way.


Students will be able to:

  • Operate a camera safely using different photography techniques
  • Observe nature in detail through the use of a camera


  • Students select their favorite photos and share it with the team

Age group: 4th-6th

Venue/s: outside space

Materials: Camera

Time: Varies

Set up: Charge the cameras and clear up the memory card.



You can ask students introductory questions such as:

  • What really cool and interesting things have you seen at Islandwood this week?
  • How do you capture those moments to share with others at home, or to remember what you’ve seen and learned?
  • What experiences have you had being a photographer? What do you like taking pictures of?

Explain to the students that photographers are not only documenting unique objects and people, they are also finding a creative way to express what they are seeing in the world around them. 

Tell the students that today they will be photographers and hunt for interesting things to capture in pictures.

The Lesson:  

Explain the sequence of the lesson to the students:  

  1. Learn how to use the camera.
  2. Learn photography techniques.
  3. Practice taking photos.
  4. Share your favorite photo with the big group.

1.     Camera Usage:

a.    Emphasize that students should treat the cameras with care. 

b.    Always have the wrist strap around your wrist. 

c.    Do not swing the cameras around.

d.    These cameras are waterproof so they can be submerged in water or exposed to rain.

e.    Demonstrate:

                                  i.    Parts of the camera

                                ii.    How to turn on camera

                               iii.    How to take a photo

                               iv.    How to zoom in and out

                                v.    How to delete photos (in ‘playback’ mode:  push blue triangle, hit trash can button, scroll to ‘Yes’ and hit OK.) 

                               vi.    How to turn off the flash (in shooting mode:  scroll down to lightning bolt, scroll over to the lightning with line through it, hit OK’ 

f.     Don’t take photos of people since this is a nature photography lesson

g.    Delete photos as you go along that are blurry or otherwise not ‘keepers’. 


* If you want to be able to distinguish between individual student photos later, you can write down the name of each student and what number camera they are using. This is recommended if you plan to download the photos and send them to the school, but not necessary.  It does involve a good deal of time and complicates the whole process but you are welcome to do so if you wish!


2.  Learn photographic techniques.

Introduce one technique at a time, interspersed with shooting time.  Gather students after each shooting period and introduce the next technique. 

a.    Look from a different perspective. 

Questions to ask: 

  • What does ‘perspective’ mean?  (The way you view something)
  • What is our typical perspective?  (Our eye-level)
  • What would a different perspective be?  (Bug’s eye [down on the ground], crouching down, looking up, aerial [getting up high and looking down], underwater or halfway underwater)

Show the examples of photos from a different perspective:


b.    Get closer. 

Questions to ask:

  • What is a ‘subject’ in photography (or in any type of art)? (What the photographer would like the viewer to focus on) 
  • If you have a certain subject you’d like to photograph, what is one way you can capture the details of that subject?  (Get closer!) 
  • What kind of objects would make a good close-up subject?  (Ones with interesting shape, texture, color, or ones that are considered rare.  Also, several objects that contrast with one another can make a good subject.) 

Show the examples of photos showing the ‘Get closer’ technique. 

c.    See the patterns. 

Questions to ask:

  • What is a pattern? (An arrangement of repeated or related parts.  Contrast with the concept of randomness.)
  • Can you find an example of a pattern in nature from where we are standing right now? 
  • How do you think you could capture patterns using your camera?  If you see a pattern, focus that within the ‘frame’ of your camera (like a framed painting.) 
  • Show the examples of photos showing the ‘See the patterns’ technique. 

d.     Other techniques:

  • Rule of thirds (you may have experience with this, or can look it up)
  • Man’s impact on nature
  • Storytelling (multiple images that put together tell a story)

3.  Practice taking photos:

After each photographic technique is introduced, give the students anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes to practice shooting photographs using that technique.   You may either give them boundaries to keep them within a certain area, or you can have them take photos while walking down a certain stretch of trail.  Tell them ahead of time what sound or landmark will indicate the end of the shooting time (example: instructor imitating the sound of a crow/rhythmic clapping pattern or when the students all arrive at a certain point on the trail.) 

When the group is gathered after each shooting period, the students can briefly share their experience trying out the technique they were using.  This can be done in a Think-Pair-Share format, or in a large group.  Did they learn anything new about their subject?  Did they find that technique challenging or easy to practice?  

4.  Sharing your favorite photos:

At the very end of the session when all techniques and shooting times have concluded, give the students 5-10 minutes to do a final edit of their photos on their cameras, deleting down to their favorite three photos.   When they have done this, they can find a partner and explain their photos to the other person, telling them why they like each photo and what photographic technique they used. 

If there is time, some of the students can pass their camera around to the whole group for everyone to see a particular photo and the group can discuss what they like about the photo. 


Here are some questions to ask your students:

  • How has your view of nature changed after taking photos?
  • Was there anything new you learned about a specific plant or object because you took a closer look through the lens of the camera?
  • What photographic technique did you enjoy the most?
  • Which was most challenging?
  • Why do you think we included photography as one of your activities at Islandwood this week?

In addition to the field photo review at the end of the session (see above under ‘sharing your favorite photos’), the instructor can download all the photos overnight and gather the students in one of the classrooms with the photos projected on a screen for a more in-depth look at the photos.  If you do this, you can have students share positive comments about each photo – what they like about the photo, what photographic technique they think was used, etc. 


The instructor may also decide to burn the photos to a disc and either give the disc to the teacher before the end of the week, or mail it to the school afterwards. This way the students can keep their work.  



**Please delete all photos from all cameras when you are done!!

  • Please charge all cameras after your lesson by plugging them in to the wall with cord & adapter.  

**Please sign in all cameras in the tech lab when you are done.    


Instructions for downloading photos:

Note:  This is a significant time commitment!  Only tell your students you are going to do this if you can really carve out the time to make it happen. Use the download cord on any IslandWood computer.  If the computer does not recognize the hardware, you can download the software from the Olympus disc onto the machine.  Create a new folder within your field group called ‘Student photos’ and keep the photos there.  If there are any outstanding shots, please email them to the Arts Coordinator! 

If you want to distinguish between student photos after you download them, you can save the files using the student’s name in the file name.  For example, Sarah’s three photos could be ‘Sarah1.jpg, Sarah2.jpg, and Sarah3.jpg) 


Safety Considerations

-       Camera Safety

-       Set clear boundaries for outdoor venues, pointing out specific areas that students should not go into.


Background information:

It is helpful for the instructor to familiarize him or herself with the operation of the cameras before introducing them to the students. 


There are three other photography lessons developed by a former EEC grad student which you can explore if you wish. 


 Created by Jessica Henderson on August 15, 2012