Oak Creek About a month ago, 12 fifth graders at South Routt Elementary School began seeing the world in a different light. To them, a fresh snow fall, a wheel of a tractor or the bars on the jungle gym at school began taking an artistic form. Teacher Dawn Melarvie noticed it and she said the results have been spectacular.
Melarvie, who is a fifth grade teacher, volunteers her time after school every Thursday to teach photography to 12 of her students. She started the class in November. Since then, she has been showing her students how to get quality content in photographs and how to get rid of the clutter in pictures.
"They've just been producing wonderful work," she said. "They are finding things that I didn't even think could be pictures."
Melarvie said the class presents a unique opportunity for grammar school students. With help from a Yampa Community Foundation Grant and the school district, the class has a budget that enables each child to have their own point-and-shoot camera and with roll of film a week.
Each week the students have to fill the roll with pictures for their assignment. Sometimes they are instructed to take pictures of something happy or of the winter, while other times they just go out and shoot. Melarvie said the assignments are always done and and are always on time.
"These kids have been so enthusiastic, it's just been great," she said.
Recently, Melarvie began taking the students on field trips for photo shoots during the class.
She has taken them to a ranch and around the town of Yampa.
On each trip the students were encouraged to use multiple rolls of film to get the right shot. When the photos were developed, it was some of the best work the 10-and-11-year-olds have done all year, Melarvie said.
"We've now decided to take a field trip every other week," she said.
For fifth grader Matt Hausman, and many of the photography students, the class is allowing him to try something new.
"This is the first time we've had the opportunity to do something like this," he said. "Now I don't have my finger in the way. Everything is better with the pictures I take."
Mical Achtner is another fifth grader who is benefiting from the class.
"It's really fun," she said. "I haven't ever tried photography too much before now."
It is important for students to have the opportunity to try their hands at something different, Melarvie said.
Many of the best photographers in the class are children who don't excel in art or aren't straight A students.
But through the class, they are discovering that they have an eye for photography and are experiencing some success, she said.
"This is an artistic outlet," Melarvie said. "The pride they feel in their products, it's building self esteem."
The students also learn how to crop and mat their pictures, using scraps donated by The F Stop photography store in Steamboat Springs.
"People are coming out of the woodwork to help us out," Melarvie said.
Since this is the first year for the photography class, Melarvie said she is still kicking around ideas on what the class should do with the finished products.
She is considering having an art show at the end of the year in the school and may try to set up a second show at the Art Depot in Steamboat.
"I'd like for people to see Routt County through the eyes of a child," she said.
Melarvie also would like to display the student's art work in places of business around the county and she encourages business owners to call the South Routt Elementary School if they are interested.
"It would be fun to get the students' view of Routt County around the community," she said.
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