An Outdoors Photography Project for Early Years: Taking Your “One Best Image”.

In the summer term we take our Foundation Unit to Sherwood Pines, a Forestry Commission park here in Nottinghamshire. As the name suggests, it’s a large woodland with tall pine trees and a great outdoor education team and facilities for all ages. During the day we did all of the outdoor education activities you could think of in a forest: mini beast hunts, woodland art (Andy Goldsworthy), story trails (The Gruffalo) and for the purpose of this blog post, photography.

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At the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute in San Diego last year, ADE and Nikon Ambassador Bill Frakes challenged all 500 of us who attended to photograph and share our One Best Image. The idea of a One Best Image has stayed with me and become an integral part of the computing curriculum that I strive to teach. As Instagram, Snapchats and selfies are embedded in the lives of the 5 years olds that I teach, taking a One Best Image is a skill and a knowledge they must have when using digital photography devices. Gone are the days we savour film rolls in our cameras! I always remember my parents saying “Don’t take all of the photos on the bus there, save your photos for when you get there!” as they passed me a disposable camera!

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So at Sherwood Pines, we handed each child in our group an iPad and told them that during this activity they must take interesting photographs of what they see in the forest. Take a series of photographs and then select your One Best Image. Children could do this directly from the camera app on the iPad, which saves their photographs to the camera roll in the Photos app.

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This is great early skill for photographing on a digital device and one that we start to teach in September upon entry to the unit. For more about a competing skills curriculum for early years, read this blog post. However, as this trip is in the summer term I want to see more in the photography skills of the children so I introduced a few other photography apps to help my group capture their One Best Image.

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The first app I introduced was 360.

It’s a very smart and simple app designed so that you can easily capture a 360 panorama of our surroundings. Upon launching the app, you hold your iPad or iPhone at arms length, press the blue button onscreen and slowly move your device around. It automatically captures each frame and ‘stitches’ each frame together onscreen. It’s so easy. And effective.

Take a look at examples of children’s work here. 

IMG_3616The 360 Panoramas that you take on each iPad can be wirelessly uploaded to your school’s 360 account and be shared back at school. Back at school we take a look at each other’s images and also 360 panoramas of other places in the world to make comparisons between localities. These panoramas inform our story setting planning too and children use them as inspiration for their imaginative writing.

This is a fantastic app for teaching the skill of taking One Best Image as children love taking photographs and taking only one photograph is not satisfying, they like to indulge! This app lets them take many photographs all around them, but as it stitches them together in to one image, it has indulged but also created one finished piece.

A finishing touch to this app is the option to switch your panorama in to a stereographic image. Back at school we use these stereographic images to write about The Enchanted Forest Planet. I wonder who lives on this woodland planet?

The second app to introduce is Pic Collage.

unnamed Pic Collage is a popular app used by serial photo posters on social media! We’ve all see those photo posters that friends and family flood our social media streams with. Love them or hate them, they are part of our young learner’s digital footprint and we need to teach them how to use these tools in meaningful ways.

Pic Collage is a great tool to limit the amount of photographs our little ones are taking. Yes they like to indulge in taking photographs but what they do with them during and after the photography is more important. In Pic Collage you can select a frame to add photographs to, so there could be a maximum of only 4 photographs or you can arrange your images on a blank canvas. What the children need to be taught here, is how to best display their photographs to show their One Best Image (or images) from the forest.

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The editing process of photography gives the photography a purpose, and focuses the attention on what happens after the picture has been taken. It helps children to know the photographs are for other people to see too. You can also teach how to delete photographs that don’t make your final piece in Pic Collage. A very handy skill for clearing out the camera roll of those unwanted photographs.

Back in the classroom, the Pic Collage finished pieces make great displays and also a purpose for writing about the trip!

icon175x175The third and final app to use in photography teaching is My Story.

I’ve been teaching skills for book creating since September and My Story is the first book creating tool I use with the 4 year olds who start our Foundation Unit. You can read more about My Story activities here. All of the book creating tools are out there on display on the screen, it’s a more inviting, less formal mark making and book creating app.

Back at school children can use My Story to create a photo album of their images from the trip. It’s another way of focusing the children’s attention on taking One Best Image (or series of images) and encouraging them not to take thousands of photographs of the same thing. Knowing that they need to create a photo album before starting the photo walk means they will think carefully about the narrative. What do they want to capture in their series to tell the story of their photo walk?

Arranging photographs in to pages of My Story means the children can add voice descriptions of their photo walk afterwards. If you are being brave and want the children to create the photo album in My Story as they walk, they can insert photographs directly in to their pages, and the microphone can then be used to capture the sounds of the woodland photo walk.

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No matter which apps you use, and what level of photography you pitch with your early years class, just remember to teach them this message: “Take your One Best Image” (Even if that is a series of images!) We need to teach children how to use digital photography to enhance their story telling and narratives, and move them on from taking photographs that fill the devices with school trip and classroom spam!

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For more activity ideas that enhance learning across all areas of learning in the Foundation Stage, download Marc’s book ‘iPads in the Early Years‘ available now on the iBookstore.

For a complete computing curriculum for early years, Marc’s book is also available here.

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4 thoughts on “An Outdoors Photography Project for Early Years: Taking Your “One Best Image”.

    1. Hi, thank you so much for downloading the book! Please submit a review on the iBookstore also 🙂

      There is no sound on the tutorial videos. Sound is only on the children’s work videos.

      1. Thanks for your speedy response! I hope to try out “my story” soon! Will put up a review soon also

      2. My pleasure! You’re welcome to use the contact me page here to email me directly too. It’s really good to chat to the people who read my blog,

        Many Thanks.

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