Exploring the environment through photography

"A motivating factor in getting pupils to give their best."

Cowbridge students get mobile with their cameras

08 May 2012 Michael Walsh and shortlisted Cowbridge students admiring their exhibits at the 2011 Awards

"After attending a Colliers Green Focus INSET at Gower College last Spring we decided to run a photographic field trip as part of our Lower School Activities Week. We wanted to run the activity in such a way to allow the maximum number of children to participate and over the course of a week 250 pupils in Years 7 & 8 gave it a go. We used the school grounds as the area for our field trip to get the children to explore a familiar place in a new way. We didn't lack for subject matter and because children were exploring the area for themselves, a little repetition didn't matter.

"The session ran for just over 2 hours with a break in the middle and approximately 25 children took part in each session. As we limited the group to the school grounds, only one teacher was needed to run the sessions. The pupils either brought in their own compact cameras or used their mobile phone cameras to take the photographs. The few children who had neither a camera nor suitable phone were encouraged to work with a friend. The IT technicians created a login for the activity and folders for each session that pupils saved their best image into and renamed it with their name and form. This allowed us to have a slideshow of the images together at the end of each session to review what had been pictured.

"We found that the activity was accessible to children of all abilities and the vast majority of them enjoyed it immensely. Many of our special needs pupils got a great deal out of the activity, including writing the haiku. The benefits went beyond the immediate experience of participating and entering the competition. I have found a lot of pupils now talk to me about photography and representing their ideas visually. We also how have a large bank of images created by the pupils that have been used to create an exhibition in the school library with an online gallery that appeared on the school website. The images have also been used to create a slideshow for open evenings; abstract images of the school were used to create a set of praise postcards used by Heads of Year; and the photographs of the sport areas are now being used as an image bank for the PE department for presentation evenings, sports reports etc. The pupils who participated get to see their (credited) work around the school and others get to see alternative views of a familiar place.

"Colliers Green Focus provided us with an opportunity to teach Geography in a very different way as well as an enjoyable activity in which most of our pupils in Years 7 & 8 could participate. It was relatively easy to run in school and entering the competition was free and straightforward and was a motivating factor in getting pupils to give their best."

Michael Walsh, Teacher of Geology and Geography, Cowbridge Comprehensive School, Vale of Glamorgan