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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Art links with education

By LYNN BULMAHN
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

SAMSULA — Along with the usual reading, writing and math, pupils at Samsula Elementary are learning to be digital photographers and graphic artists.

Shadow contrast

One of the many projects kids at Samsula Elementary School did in Johanna Riddle's media class at the school Thursday May 20, 2004. Paige did this high contrast sequence of a shadow. (Photo: News-Journal/Roger Sims)

And they are using computer-enhanced photography in most of their other school subjects.

Their high-tech photographs of rocks and minerals, labeled with the classification and characteristics of each specimen, are adding to their knowledge of geology.

Their book reports are accompanied by realistic-looking book covers they designed themselves.

The pupils take greeting-card quality illustrations of flowers and nature to go with the haiku poems they write and superimpose over their pictures.

Their history lesson about the Great Depression was enhanced with photo illustrations of classmates dressed in 1930s styles.

Art homework projects have the students check out cameras, take multiple photos of a single subject and enhance each one with different computer graphic techniques.

Looking at each photo, it’s hard to tell the age of the artist.

Funded by a grant from the Futures educational foundation, the digital photography curriculum has been at the school for more than three years, said Johanna Riddle, media specialist at Samsula Elementary.

Riddle recently wrote an article about the digital curriculum that is the cover story for the May-June issue of Multimedia & Internet @ Schools magazine, a trade publication for teachers. Called “Sharing the Vision with Digital Photography,” it describes the various learning projects the pupils have done on computers.

“Linking art with education is part of the way we learn,” Riddle said in an interview. “This reaches out to kids with lots of different learning styles and brings us together.”

A former supervisor of art education for Volusia County Schools, Riddle said she learned digital technology right along with her students.

Fourth-grader Aubree Uhl took a series of photos of everyday life with her sisters.

When her younger sister was photographed with a head full of lather from shampoo, Aubree textured the print so that the soapsuds were emphasized. Another photo was put through a filter so that it appears to be a pen-and-ink drawing.

“I took the pictures and put in the effects to make it different,” Aubree explained.

Haley Foote, another fourth-grader, used her cat, Tux, as the subject for her photography series.

She crept around a chicken cage to capture Tux as he peered inside.

“I like this picture because it brings out his feelings — you can see them in his eyes,” she said.

Classmate Charlie Burgess was proud of a squirrel he photographed in the park. “I got it in the knick of time,” he said. “I am just in shock that I got that picture.”

He is so pleased with the squirrel’s portrait that he wrote a haiku poem about it.

“These children are in their third year of technology, and they are doing all kinds of projects before and after school,” Riddle said. “All this is natural and easy for them to do because they all go through a process of learning.”

As early as kindergarten, she said, the students use the digital cameras to take snapshots.

Older students take the images from their digital cameras, put them onto a computer screen, and try out different filters to find out how to change the photos using different special effects, Riddle said.

As time goes on, they use such software programs as Corel, Power Point and Photo Elements, which is a Photo Shop type of software designed for children, she said.

“The children have lots of different levels of ability, but they are all able to take part in class projects,” Riddle said. “You can see a lot of growth in the things they did earlier in the year and the things they are doing now.”

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