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A double-duty lesson for Farmington sixth graders

Sixth grader Gabriel Enriquez took this photo during a recent outing to shoot photos and do a little spring cleaning.

Occasionally, it helps to think outside the box. Especially when that box is a school building.

That’s what Farmington middle school media arts teacher Kjerstin Tharaldson did with her students last week. They thought about the area outside of their school buildings, and took the classroom outdoors.

Lots of teachers take their students outside when it’s nice. But Tharaldson decided that, since her students were already going to be outside, they might as well do something for the good of their community and the environment. So, they got a jump start on cleaning up around the Vermillion River.

Tharaldson had been doing a photography lesson with her students in recent weeks. She’d covered some basic photo concepts. Every day last week, she put up photographs from National Geographic, and started her classes by asking students for their thoughts. Her intent was to get students to start understanding how nature can play a role in life, and its value in photography.

She teaches sixth grade media arts at both Boeckman and Dodge middle schools. Both schools are near natural areas and are fairly close to the Vermillion River, so Tharaldson decided to take her students outdoors to take some photos of nature.

“In education, there’s a real disconnect to the environment,” she said. “Students need to get outside more. A lot of them didn’t even know Rambling River Park was there, or that the river was there because they’ve never gone past the schools.”

Since the snow had melted near the river, Tharaldson started seeing lots of debris lying along the trails, among the trees and on the shoreline of the river. That’s when she decided that, as part of Friday’s outdoor photography unit, her students would also do something good for the environment.

Tharaldson took five classes outside Friday. Students buddied up into groups of two and three before going outside. One student would hold the trash bag, one would collect the trash and the other would take the nature photos. Each class went to slightly different areas around their school buildings. Some went to the river. Others cleaned up the natural areas in front of their school buildings. But all of the students not only learned a little bit about photography, they learned how to be good stewards for their community.

“This is something I hope to be able to do every spring with the media arts students,” Tharaldson said. “This way the kids can get outside, help the community and take some photographs.”

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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