New cameras, same ole magic

Kid with Cameras 4.0 just came to a lovely close.  Through Julian United Methodist Church’s Gallo Fund, we were able to purchase ten “teaching cameras” for the project.  Formerly, we worked with whatever cameras the kids had access to, and we spent a lot of time fiddling with each one.  It worked, but everything is now so much easier–the cameras are always available, batteries are charged, instruction is given once to everyone, and we don’t need to download images at the end of every class.

Over seven weeks, we had a classes taught by various local photographers.  Jeff Holt and Bill Bevill taught camera fundamentals:

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Then Anne Garcia took us through principles of composition, using her own work as examples as well as a few photos of Graham Wilder’s.

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We headed out to shoot in the school garden, with the objective of using some of the best images for a Garden Club photo card fundraiser.

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

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Another class was held at Down the Road farm for farmer/chef portraits.  Enlargements of some of the day’s best photos will be hung in the school cafeteria to help children make connections between their lunch and the people that had a hand in growing/preparing it.

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Dave Pierce taught a class on still life, described here.

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Graham Wilder, a new instructor with Kids with Cameras, showed the students some of his images, encouraging them to find the “extraordinary in the ordinary.”

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Then we walked to downtown Julian to do just that.

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Another new addition to the class was the process for choosing the “best photo” to exhibit.  In the past, the instructors got together to look at film to pick the image.  This year, each instructor took home the memory cards for two students after our last day of shooting.  From those photos, the teacher narrowed them down to the best 10-12 images.  Then during our last class, they sat with the students for 1.5 hours and talked through each photo, discussing them at length and asking the kids for feedback.  Ultimately, the student picked their favorite.  I think this approach worked great:  the student had ownership of the photo to be exhibited, but they chose from a small pool already screened by the instructors, drawing upon their expertise.  As educational experiences go, I think this class was simply incredible.

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As is now our tradition, we ended with an evening reception at the public library. Instructors spoke about the class, students talked about their photos, and everyone enjoyed refreshments while milling around with the artists.

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

All photos remain on display for two weeks, and then the students get to take them home, along with a CD of all of their photos. Thanks to everyone involved for making this program an unqualified success!

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Photo courtesy of Bill Bevill

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

Food, ready for its closeup

Under Mr. Pierce’s instruction, today’s afterschool photography program Kids with Cameras class tackled still life, starring fruits and vegetables, to go with our “food focus” for this semester.  Stacey Peyakov from our local produce stand Wynola Flats donated produce for us to work with (thank you, Stacey!)

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I threw in my own week’s groceries as well as every basket, platter, small bowl and linen in my house.  Other instructors added vases, spools of yarn, a jug of paintbrushes, bowls, shells, lanterns…..  We ended up with a great selection of props.

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Mr. Pierce gave an excellent short presentation on the concept of “still life,” and then outlined a few things the kids should be thinking about: light, texture, color, shadow, etc.

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Then the kids went for it.  And I loved it.  100% of the kids, 100% engaged, for 100% of the class.  I was in pedagogical heaven.

Selecting materials:

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Our ratio of instructors/adults to students was almost 1:1.  The kids consulted with the teachers, and the teachers helped to set up their shots.

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One of the students suggested we tip over the tables to make areas to create the arrangements This worked great as a way to hang linens or butcher paper for backdrops.

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Watching the students exercise their creativity was a joy.  They’d work with one set of items they collected, arranging and re-arranging, and after getting their photographs, they’d head back and try something totally different.  I’d say they were definitely “in the zone.”

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These faces say it all!  A great day!

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Farmers are outstanding in their field, being photographed

Kids with Cameras, our afterschool photography class, is off and running again (I’ve written about it hereherehere and here if you’d like to know more.)  This semester we’re focusing on food, so we took kids to “Down the Road” Farm–one of the places sourcing Jeremy’s on the Campus with fruit and vegetables.  Farmer Josh, Farmer Bob and even Chef Jeremy were on hand to be photographed.  The idea is that we will enlarge some of the day’s best shots and use them in the cafeteria to help students make a connection between their food and the people/farms that grow it.

The farm is set at the base of Volcan Mountain–a stunning site.

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A student chats with Chef Jeremy.

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The greenhouse provided nice, diffuse light on an otherwise very bright afternoon.

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We found that the kids were a bit shy about approaching the farmer/chefs so one of the instructors set them up in stations, so kids went down the line, interacting with them while shooting–a bit more directed approach.  Here Eva talks with Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.

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Farmer Josh had a surprise: extra 2 inch models.

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Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia

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A van full of happy children loaded down with flowering root vegetables!

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Coming soon: what the children photographed that day.  I’ll leave you with something that caught my eye!  Ah autumn!

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From Julian to the MOPA

True:  Four Julian students currently have photographs hanging in the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.  This is a great story and my dear friend Ann recently wrote it up for the Julian Journal, and her account from the November edition is reprinted (with gratitude) below.

Julian Youth Exhibit Photographs at MOPA

Trustees and members of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) filled its atrium last month as guests of honor, four students from Julian Junior High, arrived for an artist’s reception to open “Photo/Synthesis,” the 7th Annual Youth Photography Exhibition.

Seventh-graders Taylor Cole, Trevor Denny, Ethan Elisara and Kaleigh Kaltenthaler enjoyed appetizers and music, and mingled with the public, sharing a love of photography nurtured by their involvement in “Kids with Cameras,” an afterschool enrichment program.  Some of the students had never been to MOPA before.  For others, opening was a new experience.  For all of them, it is the first time their artwork was on display in a venue that is nationally recognized for its contribution to the world of photography.

The theme of this year’s youth exhibition, environment and sustainability, is a subject right up the alley of these students who spent most of their time taking photos in the school garden and on Volcan Mountain.  The show was open to students from throughout San Diego County.  Applicants submitted original photos and an artist statement.  A panel of five experts in the field of photography reviewed about 300 entries to select 100 images for the show.  Jurors considered the quality of the image, how it fit into the theme and how well the student’s written words supported his or her photograph.

Deborah Klochko, executive director of MOPA, spoke at the reception saying, “We live in a visual world; how we see that is important.”

She encouraged guests to take a moment to talk with the artists, saying that their voice plays an important role.  Klochko considers photography to be the most important media of the 21st century.

While she says, “Creativity is important,” she also emphasized the importance of visual literacy.

She spoke of the volume of images in the world today, saying that until one understands the structure of an image—how it is made and how it can be manipulated—one can be controlled by the image instead of being in control.  This is why the museum embraces the philosophy of lifespan learning, with programs for children and adults.

“The museum is proud to showcase the work of the youth, which is exciting for the audience as well,” she says.

In the gallery, the photos are arranged by sub-topics within the theme.

Hung with a group of floral photos is Trevor Denny’s close-up of a bee on a flower petal.  Denny, who thinks “It’s pretty cool” to have his photo in a museum exhibition, never thought about how complex bees are until he examined one through the lense of this camera, focusing on details like the patterns in their wings and the hairs on their bodies.

For Ethan Elisara, who “feels really good” about having his artwork in the show, it was capturing the moment when a cattail stalk released its seeds into the air that caught the attention of the jurors.  Elisara’s photo, which hangs with a group of “not your typical nature images,” has a mysterious quality that engages viewers.

Just a few of the photos on display used portraiture as a way to approach the subject, and that’s where Taylor Cole’s dramatic image of a child’s shadow on the bark of a tree burned in the Cedar Fire is found.  Cole, who “felt like a V.I.P.” at the reception, juxtaposes in her photo the contrast of the tragedy of a natural disaster with the playfulness of a child.

In a group of photos that show mankind’s effect on the earth, Kaleigh Kaltenthaler’s artwork is the lone example of a positive way in which human beings have impacted the environment.  Kaltenthaler said she was “fired up” to be surrounded by all of the photos as she talked with people about her image of a grinding stone and mortar.

Klochko publically credited Jeff Holt with doing a great job with a talented group of students.

The show, beautifully organized by Lori Sokolowski, continues through January 27, 2013.

All students pose with instructor Jeff Holt

Destination farm stand

Last week Kids with Cameras took a field trip to a farm stand run by a Julian family dedicated to sourcing food as locally as possible.  First our guest instructor, Bill Bevill, worked with the students on sharp focus and filling the frame, and then we drove five minutes down the road to Wynola Flats Produce.  Stacey Peyakov was a wonderful host, allowing kids to roam through the store as well as the orchard, snapping away. The indoor/outdoor space allowed for experimenting with lighting, and the produce gave us a chance to capture colors, textures, and patterns.  One of the goals of both the KWC program and the garden is to develop in kids a “sense of place”—what makes living in Julian unique and wonderful?  To do that you have to get out and look around, and what better way to do that than with a camera in hand?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Holt

Wall flowers

Pathways is a family resource center on our campus that houses everything from our counselors to our Drug-free Julian Coalition to the school garden desk. 🙂 Due to a generous donation from a local family in memory of a beloved uncle, the multi-purpose office/meeting space was moved to a new building and renovated this summer.

For the interior, the idea was to keep the space clean, beautiful and peaceful.  Susi ordered a set of the garden photos from the spring session of Kids with Cameras to decorate the walls.  All prints were mounted on white matte, signed by the student artists and framed.  How cool for a kid to see his/her photographs gracing the walls of their school?

Something remarkable, part 3

Enough teasing—I will show you a picture of the Hubbell gate.

But first you must hear the story of how it came to be planted in our garden because at the end of the day, our garden is all about the stories.

It matters to me very much that gardens have a sense of place, by which I mean they sprout up in such a way that is specific to the place where they are sown.  I think this is the “special sauce” of our garden.  Yes, we have veggies, fruit, herbs, flowers and natives.  But we also have layers upon layers of meaning every which way you turn—projects and structures and art pieces that tell stories about who we are. 

From the beginning of our project, the idea of a Hubbell piece was thrown around.  One obvious reason is that his work his ridiculously wonderful.  But the other equally important reason is that he is our neighbor.  When kids see the Hubbell gate, I want them to learn about shape and proportion and color and design.  But I also want them to recognize Jim, our friend and fellow community member, who lives and works in our little town and gave our garden a big vote of confidence by choosing to place an original piece of art in it.

So all of us Garden Club folks threw the idea around for three years.  Until one day Jeff Holt visited the garden on Global Youth Service Day and upon surveying the big gains the garden had recently made, casually tossed the question to me: So, what’s one of your next big dreams for the garden?

Hubbell, I blurted right out.  I would love to have a Hubbell piece out here.

And in a very old-fashioned gesture, Jeff said he would “make the introduction.”  He did, and I gave Jim a tour.  He smiled a lot, and I think he liked what he saw.  At the end of our time together, he looked at me with smiling eyes and said he’d like to contribute something.  I can’t remember if I cried right then and there, but I’ll tell you I was crying on the inside.  He told me to think about what the garden needed, and a few things were mentioned, like a small water feature or a sundial.

We met again a couple months later with Marisa.  We got to telling stories, again.  I was explaining that the junior high kids had been clamoring for a garden, having grown accustomed to having one.  I mentioned the junior high kid who asked what he should do with his banana peel—after years of routinely composting his food scraps at the elementary, it seemed bizarre to start throwing it in the trash can at the junior high.  So now a garden project at the junior high was getting off the ground.  Jim lit up.  His eyes sparkled, and he gently suggested, “Why don’t we build a gate to connect the two schools?”

See, the two schools are adjacent but are totally separated by a long, long line of chain fence on our side, and then a service road and another line of chain link.  Jim suggested we connect the gardens, we connect the schools, we connect students’ learning.  Then the talk turned magically philosophical—about how gates are portals to the next thing, the entrances to new beginnings, thresholds to fresh life chapters that may seem scary but are really just unknown—-much like the transition from elementary school to junior high, and of course, so much more.

Jim left, and Marisa and I cried.

And then a Julian resident, Mike Gallo, extravagantly stepped up and funded the entire project in a single swoop, in loving memory of his late wife.  Jim drew a sketch and got to work with artist colleagues Bill Porter and John Wheelock.  We started to tell people with excited little giggles, and they marveled with us.

The gate was on its way.

I began to write curriculum about garden gates which you can read about here.  We also had students start to document the whole process, and I’ll show you their step-by-step photographs later when we celebrate the ribbon cutting.

But enough talking….take a look at this:

Photo of courtesy of Chris Elisara

Check out the two “owl” details—Photo courtesy of Chris Elisara

The long view of the garden—Mrs. Cirillo’s class walking by and seeing it for the first time (I was spying from under the plum tree!)

Looking the other direction, into the garden (Photo courtesy of Avery McFedries)

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries