Pictures Draw Families Deeper Into Nature

By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Program Writer and Consultant

100_0443Corinne Carr, owner/operator of Special Blessing’s Child Care in Emporia, Kansas, likes taking pictures.  Photos on her website richly document the wide variety of environments and experiences she provides for the six children in her care.  In addition to drawing people to her website through photography, she has also used cameras creatively, to draw families together in nature.  And she’s even used film cameras.

Parental support of the young child’s learning in nature is crucial. Anything parents can do to support their children’s development makes Corinne’s work more effective.

One day Corinne gave a disposable film camera to each of the children’s families.  The assignment: take pictures at family events outdoors.

Families documented many outdoor activities with their cameras. The resulting photos were placed on a bulletin board.  Children now had a vivid presence of their families in natural settings, which sparked many discussions and activities.

Their families’ appreciation of spending time outdoors was reinforced.  And families felt even more connected to Special Blessing’s.  One family wasn’t able to participate, so photos from that child’s activities outside at Special Blessing’s were placed on the board.  No one was left behind, and everyone was happy.

With a very different usage of photography, Corinne brought a busy mother closer to her son, changing her understanding of him in the process.  This single mother, who was also a college student, lived with her two children in a small apartment.   During a pre-placement interview, she told Corinne that he was a “free spirit.”  Corinne knew that to many, those words meant “behaviorally difficult.”  But she sees behavior through a different lens, and decided to accept the challenge of working with this child.

Initially he was not able to settle down during early morning activities. Corrine later learned that two families, with a total of five children, lived in that small apartment.  As she imagined a chaotic household the boy endured each morning, the problems behind his behaviors became clearer.  So did their solution- a morning dose of nature.

Corinne flipped around the curriculum’s order of activities and provided this child time outdoors first thing each day.  He played with whatever attracted his curiosity.  After an hour of self-directed explorations he was ready for indoor activities, where he played normatively with the others.

But Corinne didn’t stop there.  During the child’s outdoor explorations she took photos, and texted them to his busy mother.  The sight of her “free spirit” eagerly enjoying outdoor play reoriented the mother’s understanding of her child.  She began bringing him to the local park on weekends.

The overused label of “difficult child,” which easily could have been applied to this boy and followed him through his early years of schooling, was completely avoided.  Thanks to Corinne’s understanding of the healing power of play in nature, and her creative use of photography, this boy and his mother have a new future.