Getting a fresh perspective
Pictures can capture the beauty of the world around us, evoke memories and feelings, and allow us to see nature in a different way. If taking and seeing photos of nature can do this for adults, imagine what it can do for children. Encouraging children to take photos of their outdoor surroundings can help foster meaningful relationships between children and nature.
Focus on Nature is a non-profit organization that connects children to nature through photography. What started 10 years ago as a small project in the Guelph/Wellington, Ontario, area to encourage children to spend more time outdoors, has expanded to the Waterloo and Halton regions and Hamilton–Wentworth.
Focus on Nature hosts photography camps and day-long photography workshops at local schools in the regions. At the end of each workshop, students edit their best five to 10 photos. The photos are then collected and usually add up to over 10,000 photos just within one school year!
From these thousands of photos, a committee of photography and art enthusiasts select the best 60 to 80. The photos are then professionally mounted and put on display at public photo exhibits called “Fresh Perspectives.” The first exhibit was held in 2014 at the Guelph General Hospital. This year, the Guelph Fresh Perspectives exhibit was held at 10C, a community hub and shared workspace in Guelph.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Guelph Regional office is conveniently located around the corner from 10C. I had the opportunity to spend some time checking out the exhibit, where 30 photos were on display. The photos included close-up shots of leaves, birds, insects and other species. The photos were all so different yet powerful in their own ways. I enjoyed seeing the world from the perspective of children and was inspired to keep working in the conservation field so that I can work to ensure that future generations can also experience the beauty of the world.
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Giving children a creative, nature-inspired outlet can have an incredible impact on them. Testimonials from the students, their parents and their teachers about "Focus on Nature" show positive effects on the children. Here are just a few testimonials:
From the students:
“I never knew nature was so fun.”
“I learned that nature is amazing.”
“That night, I went home and went around my big yard and took pictures! I was really inspired.”
“I thought that where we were all walking — through the trees and the vines — was magical. It felt like we were walking through a nature wonderland!”
From the parents/teachers:
“It’s amazing to see the students in awe of the patterns and beauty of nature.”
“This program was amazing for boosting students’ self-confidence in the arts.”
“This is such a wonderful way to instill a love of nature, participating in the outdoors and using artistic skills to tell the story of the world around us.”
“Viewing the natural world through a camera lens teaches [the students] an important way to connect with the natural environment right in their community.”
“Educating children in an immersive way about the joys and processes of nature teaches them more about themselves and their crucial part in loving themselves and the planet alike.”
Children remind us of the deep connections we can make with nature when we take a moment to slow down and take in our surroundings. Next time you are out for a hike at one of NCC’s Nature Destinations or participating in a Conservation Volunteers event, see if you can view the world from a fresh perspective.
The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.