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Increasing Environmental Appreciation through Photography in Public Schools

There is a current lack of art and outdoor environmental education within the public school system in Seattle. Outdoor education refers to any topic that is taught outside, while environmental education concerns the natural environment and issues that pertain to the natural environment. Students are often taught about problems relating to our environment, but they are rarely taught to simply appreciate it. Art can be used as a tool to give students enjoyable hands-on environmental learning in an outdoor setting. By using photography students are able to interact with their environment, show others how they see the world, and feel a deeper sense of appreciation towards nature. This project was inspired by the Literacy Through Photography program at Duke University and will address the question of how photography in an outdoor curriculum can increase a student’s environmental awareness within public schools. To begin answering this question I have compiled a comprehensive literature review and taught a pilot curriculum activity with a K/1 class at Leschi Elementary School that incorporates being outdoors, the environment, and photography. My literature review and observation results suggest that students enjoy interactive activities outside and that outdoor and environmental education is beneficial for student health, environmental awareness, and happiness. In the future, these findings could be studied further with more pilot programs in a variety of school locations, such as within intercity schools where nature is lacking.