When You Give a Kid a Camera...

Written by Kara Baldwin
    Wednesday, 03 September 2014
When You Give a Kid a Camera...

Last year, while brainstorming ideas for summer camps, I suggested a photography camp for middle school aged campers. This summer was the first year, to my knowledge, that we offered a photography camp, and I was lucky enough to lead it.

I was a little nervous about the interest level of the campers, but my fears were eased on the very first day. You see, in this world of technology, cameras are instant crowd pleasers. Add a creative scavenger hunt (that includes a group selfie and a picture from the perspective of a squirrel) and you are in business. Throughout the week, I marveled at the pictures my campers took. The campers experimented with photography by slowly walking and observing the flowers at Boerner Botanical Gardens, capturing stories at Riverside Park through climbing, experiencing the city from a new perspective while canoeing along the Milwaukee River, and exploring Washington Park.

As we discussed varying topics, like how to make pictures more visually interesting, how to edit pictures, and how to tell stories through photography, I quickly noticed a change in the pictures. These middle school students showed their voices though their photography. Instead of hurrying through nature, they took their time, looking for unique perspectives and ideas. By the time Friday rolled around, we had over 150 pictures per camper that we needed to distil down to their three favorites for our "Photo Showcase." With the help of great volunteers, Diane and Jeanne, we experienced photography from many angles and with great on-the-spot "optional challenges" created by my intern Evan, we allowed the campers to explore what interested them and push them to think about photography in a different light.

I knew I was looking forward to the last week of camp for a reason, but the campers exceeded my expectations. As the week went on, they became more thoughtful, and made better observations about the world around them. Their fresh perspective made me appreciate nature around me differently as well. I hope you enjoy their photography as much as I do.

I could talk about their photography all day, but instead I'd like to share their photos and include some of their own words. Although not all were crazy about the idea of writing down a couple sentences about their photo, all of them were willing to share their favorites. Here are their photos and what they had to say.

photo 1



"This photo is of a pink-purple flower I found at the botanical gardens. I love this picture because of the visible dust/pollen. I enjoy macro-photography." By Celeste

photo 2





"Barn Swallow" by Colleen

photo 3






"I like this photo because it is yellow like the sun." By Jazmyn


photo 4




"It crawls across the log
Slowly but surely it moves
Heading for its destination
From shade to sunlight it goes
The inch worm on its way." by Lexy


photo 5




"I like this photo because of the color contrast. I think it looks sweet." By Mya

photo 6





"I like how this picture looks as if it was taken by a professional photographer. I think it's amazing how the red is popping out and there is only green in the background." By Idris

photo 7


 "See how the ducks are making the V shape? They are swimming very calm and smooth. The ducks represent the park and us because they get along like a family and don't fight. While I was taking the picture, the ducks were making a group and protecting each other. I took the picture because the ducks were nice to each other. It's the beauty of nature. We should act more like the ducks." By JR

When you give a kid a camera, your perspective will change. When your perspective changes, you look at the world through a new lens. When you look through the world with a new lens, you quickly realize how simply beautiful it can be. When you realize the beauty of the ordinary, you have a chance to forever capture its extraordinary qualities. When you give a kid a camera, you will be amazed!

Click here to see more favorite photos taken throughout this week-long summer camp in our Photo Showcase!


Kara Baldwin

Kara Baldwin

Kara Baldwin is a Minnesota native who, thanks to her parents, spent much of her summers experiencing camping trips across the country. These childhood experiences lead her to pursue biology education at South Dakota State University and eventually find her calling as an environmental educator. She has been a high school science teacher, park naturalist, and museum educator at locations across the country. She has finally settled in Milwaukee and enjoys her career at the Urban Ecology Center as an environmental educator. In addition to teaching kids, she loves training and competing in sprint triathlons, working in her garden, walking her dog, singing and playing bells at her church, volunteering with a running program, and camping at state and national parks.

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