First week of IWWL!

This was the first official week of Investigating Where We Live. For the next four weeks students will attend the program Tuesday through Thursday. The program went really well this week, and I’m really looking forward to continuing with the students. Monday was the last day we had for preparation. I spent all day getting ready for the program. We had a team meeting all Monday morning. Then in the afternoon I met individually with my team leader Lauren to plan out our first site visit. I printed out 11 historical photographs to give the students, so they could compare them with what Southwest Waterfront looks like today. I also met with Andrew Costanza, another team leader with whom I’ll be teaching an architecture lesson next week. We split up the lesson, so I will be presenting the content and he will be leading the activities. I put together a presentation about architectural history and historic preservation. I had to keep my audience in mind, since it will be composed of 11 to 16 year olds, and this can be a dry subject. I decided to only discuss classical, gothic, federal, arts and crafts, and modern architecture. These are they styles that they will most often see around DC and in their neighborhoods. All of the examples are from DC. I also am going to have them draw different features of these styles in their sketchbooks as I present, to keep them interested.

Tuesday was the first day with the kids. We split up into groups at each table. It was my job to get my group talking and feeling comfortable with each other. We played an ice breaker, where I asked each person to name what they would bring with them to a deserted island and why. It got the students talking and laughing. Then Jamee gave an introduction to the program and explained the logistics of it. While she was talking a group of professional photographers went down to the atrium and set up display tables with their cameras and examples of their work. After Jamee was finished talking the students went down to the atrium. The small groups rotated from table to table to hear each photographer talk about their techniques and photographs. I think this was a great introduction to photography for the students. I also think hearing professional photographers talk was a good insight for them into a possible career path. The photographers gave lots of great tips about how to take good pictures. They also let the students hold the cameras they had brought, which the children enjoyed. One photographer had a camera from 1890 that uses glass plates as negatives. The camera was huge and had to be mounted on a tripod. I had learned about this type of camera before in my history of photography class but had never seen one in person, so I thought that was exciting. We then went back upstairs to the classroom for lunch. After lunch the students received their own digital cameras, which they will get to keep if they complete the program. Jamee went over how to use them and reminded them to be gentle with them. Most of the children were already very comfortable with the cameras. That did not surprise me, as technology is such a large part of kids’ lives today. The students then went around the museum taking photographs, experimenting with the different settings.
On Wednesday the students learned about the elements of photography. Sarah-Guyton, another intern, and Lauren Wilson, my team leader, presented on this topic. They went over terms such as composition, leading lines, and the rule of thirds. These terms will be helpful for the students as they take pictures. They then had a photography scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, where they had to apply the terms they had used. I led a group of six students through the activities. I was a bit nervous to be in charge of a group of students. However, they were very cooperative and I enjoyed working with them.

Thursday was our first site visit. We also split up into our neighborhood groups for the first time. I really like my group. Lauren and I are working with eleven students. They range in age from 11 to 16. Most are DC residents, but a few are from Maryland. My students are very engaged and interested in the photography, which makes them fun to work with. Lauren and I took them to Southwest Waterfront for the first time. The visit went well. We went to the fish market, which I think was a good place to start their exploration of the neighborhood. The fish stalls provided great subjects of photography, as the seafood is very colorful. The students also got some pictures of people, but I had to get the subjects to sign release forms so we have permission to use their photos in the exhibit. Lauren had also arranged for a fifth generation Southwester to speak to the students. He explained what the neighborhood was like when he was growing up and how it has changed. I think it was great for the students to hear first person historical account. I was also glad that several students asked questions. After the interview and fish market it was time for the students to go back to the museum to eat lunch. When lunch was over, Lauren and I led a group discussion about what their first impressions were of Southwest. They also went through their photographs and wrote down 30 that they would like to see printed out on contact sheets, and three they would like to be enlarged. When the students left, Lauren and I uploaded all the photographs onto the server into their individual file folders.

Friday my task was to organize all of the photos had taken. This was quite a task, and it took me five hours. I had to separate out which photos the students wanted to be printed out and which ones they wanted to be enlarged. Then I had to print out the contact sheets and enlargements. When that was finished I had about an hour, so I uploaded some of their pictures to the NBM’s flikr account. It was quite a busy week. I really glad that program has started, I have been looking forward to it for over a month. I’m glad the first week went well, and can’t wait to see how our exhibit develops.