Last week we wrapped up the annual TMS photo scavenger hunt with all of our schools. The scavenger hunt is one of the first exercises that really allows the students to get creative with the camera, and we came to class excited to see what the day would hold. Railway’s 8A was as energetic as ever, but within the first few moments of the hunt we realized something was missing. We had spent several classes working on writing and visualizing letters to the world—notes that express the girls’ thoughts on local and global issues. Some girls wrote about the importance of education, others wrote of tolerance and still others described the value of passion and friendship. We spent a day making collages of the letters. The thoughtfulness and sincerity that came from the girls during these exercises made us very hopeful for our future projects. So now that the girls stood with cameras at the ready, where was that sense of purposeful thinking? Most of the girls were creative enough in terms of turning every item on the scavenger hunt list into a way to take snapshots of friends. We really had to encourage them to think like photographers; to take a moment to plan the best way to shoot a topic; to deliberate as a team; to pay less attention to whose turn it was with the camera and focus more on why we are using the camera in the first place. As expected, the scavenger hunt was incredibly fun for everyone involved, with tree climbing, dancing and even teachers running across the yard. More importantly, it was our first chance to move from viewing the camera as a toy to thinking of it as a tool for expression.
At our other schools, scavenger hunt day gave us a chance to see our AIF students in action—and we were amazed! Since we only see these students twice a week, we are still becoming familiar with the class dynamics and the students’ ways of problem solving. Language barriers tend to make self-expression in these classes a bit more difficult. The fact that the camera uses a language of its own broke down inhibitions and drew the students out of their shells. We learned that the camera can really be used to instill a quick and effective dose of confidence. I can’t wait to get the cameras back into the hands of these students!