When you put a camera in the hands of a child, bugs that once seemed scary become interesting subjects. A creepy grass snake slithering by a tree seems a little less threatening through the camera's lens. Prickly cactuses, sunsets and rises, all look a little different through a viewfinder.
The Boys & Girls Club recently partnered with The Stewart L. Udall Parks in Focus program to put digital cameras into the hands of 24 Oklahoma kids, ages 10 to 14, to inspire them to appreciate nature while learning about it through a lens.
“There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about how kids are becoming more disconnected from nature,” said Bret Muter, program manager for the Parks in Focus program, supported by the Udall Foundation.
For the last couple of weeks, the Boys & Girls Club kids got to explore nature with point-and-shoot cameras provided by the program. The kids shot photos of streams and bugs, birds and trees, flowers, the sky and all kinds of wildlife at some of the state's most visually interesting spots. The group visited sites such as the Myriad Gardens, Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, Great Plains State Park and Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, where they had a campout.
Photography is an ideal way to introduce young inner-city kids to nature because they can, in a manner of speaking, hide behind the camera until they are more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, Muter said.
“Things they might typically squeal about become things that are interesting to photograph,” Muter said. The program is only active in a handful of locations across the United States. It was brought to Oklahoma by Dr. Steve Prescott, president of Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Prescott also serves on the board of the Udall Foundation.
“It will not only inspire our youth to enjoy nature, but will teach them valuable skills in photography,” said Jane Sutter, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County, in a news release. “We are so appreciative of this wonderful new partnership.”
This was a pilot for the Oklahoma City extension of the program. Tucson, Ariz., is home to the flagship Parks in Focus program. Muter said the Udall Foundation's goal is to find local financial sponsorship to develop a program that would serve Oklahoma kids year-round.
For information about Parks in Focus, go online to http://pif.udall.gov.