Research at Rensselaer

EcoEd Photography promotes sustainability

PHOTOCLUB AND ECOED ENCOURAGES students to photograph nature in accorandance with learning about ecosystems and living sustainably.

On Sunday, Rensselaer’s EcoEd Research Group, along with the Photography Club, held a workshop entitled Sustainable Photography: Thinking Through the Lens to promote awareness of environmental concepts and issues. Their overarching goal was to educate children in the area of environmental sustainability while integrating it with activities likely to entertain them. They would then be able to determine the viability of conducting similar projects in the future.

EcoEd invited several dozen students from grades five through eight to visit RPI. The Photography Club taught these students about various aspects and techniques of photography including composition, contrast, and juxtaposition. They were then led around campus and instructed to take photos representing each concept. Throughout the tour, representatives from EcoEd emphasized the appearance of nature and encouraged the students to enjoy the plant life and landscape they were photographing. EcoEd members then asked students to connect the nature on campus with the ecosystems they have learned about in class. They used this connection to educate the children about energy conservation and its apparent effects on the environment. From there, RPI participants described their concerns regarding environmental sustainability.

Following the photography tour, the students presented their many photographs to their parents. They also discussed the material they had been taught by both RPI groups. By presenting the information, the students reinforced the concepts in their minds. Additionally, the project forced them, according to EcoEd, to “think about and visually convey the environment and environmental problems at different scales.” And by increasing the students’ environmental literacy EcoEd hopes it will increase stewardship of the natural world.

According to members of both EcoEd and the Photography Club, as well as Professor Kim Fortun, the project was a success. The students reportedly enjoyed themselves and appeared to take in and present the environmental concepts of which EcoEd wanted them to be aware. They also retained the ideas taught by the Photography Club.

With this success in mind, EcoEd is planning to hold another workshop this Sunday, which it has called Sustainability and Food. One goal is to make sure the students have actually retained the knowledge they gained during Sustainable Photography. They will then teach attending students—both those who went to the previous event and those who did not—about the food they eat. The discussion will focus on nutrition and the cost to the environment to bring the food to their plates. The students will then learn about the lack of environmental sustainability in the food industry. EcoEd hopes this project will encourage these students to think more critically and ponder the environmental impact of areas which they would have not previously considered.

Following Sustainability and Food, the students will watch the film What’s on Your Plate? This film, EcoEd members hope, will help reinforce the concepts the students learned earlier in the day. The film, which will be shown in Sage 3303 at 4 pm, is also open to RPI students, and the sustainability science community encourages all those interested to attend.