Art students at the Lincolnton campus of Lincoln Charter School used the medium of digital photography to document their daily life during the quarantine. While they were engaged in distance learning, Alaina Chapman, a high school art teacher tasked her students to journal about their day to day lives utilizing photography as their means of communication.
“Students were provided links to video resources about using cell phones and tips for digital photography at the beginning of this unit,” she said. “The initial prompt for this project was –
‘recently, our daily routines and schedules have completely changed. What we have grown accustomed to and comfortable with has now been altered and set on hold.’”
Change can often cause stress, feelings of uncertainty or even panic, Chapman added. Journaling has been around for centuries. It’s a tool that has been used to help people express themselves in a positive and healthy way.
“In today’s technological society, photo-documenting our daily lives has become a social norm,” she said. “We created a photo journal with daily entries and descriptions to document this recent change in our lives.”
For each daily journal entry, students were to include a picture taken with a cell phone, Chromebook, tablet, camera, or anything other means. This photograph could be of anything that the student was seeing throughout their daily life. It could be of the student, their family, pet, schoolwork, chores, something they ate or an activity that they did. The photographs had to be school appropriate and abide by the Lincoln Charter’s community expectations.
Each photo was to come with a three to five sentence description describing the student’s day. It could be about what was being show in the photograph, their mood or emotions, what they did that day or the high or low point of the day. Again, the descriptions had to be school appropriate and abide by the Lincoln Charter’s community expectations.
“When all of this began, teachers were communicated that attendance would be taken based on completed daily assignments,” Chapman said. “I originally came up with this idea as a way to keep in touch with my students while also allowing them to explore the medium of digital photography. Many of my students really went above and beyond my expectations for this project. Several of them communicated to me how much they looked forward to this daily assignment.”
Through their photography, Chapman’s students shared their home lives, their pets, their schoolwork for other classes, their outdoor adventures, their recreational artwork, their new-found love of cooking, daily devotions, spending time with their family, and sometimes even their boredom.
“Through their writing, they shared their emotions during this time, what their day-to-day life looked like, how they were handling the new transition from attending school to eLearning at home,” she said. “Later, as communication was sent out from the state that attendance would not be documented, I decided to continue this project with my students. By this time, I had come to realize how many of my students looked forward to this assignment and how many of them used this as an outlet. I also realized how much I looked forward to reading their entries and how much I needed this daily connection with my students.”
Chapman, who has been teaching for three years, two of them at Lincoln Charter, said that she fell in love with art growing up in school because she was able to use it as an outlet and loved the time away from all of her core classes.
“It was a place where I could relax and express myself through my work,” she said. “This is why I decided to go into teaching, so that I can provide a space for my students to learn art techniques, new media, art history and express themselves and their interests through their work.”
Throughout the year, Chapman shared that she learns so much about her students through their artwork. Like she did as a student, many of them use art as a way to express themselves and have down time away from their core classes.
“This assignment was no different,” she said. “I believe that through this project I have been able to learn so much about my students that may not have been shared through their artwork done in class.”
As any educator would tell you, Chapman added, school is so much more than the subjects that they teach. No teacher pursues this profession for money, they do it for the students and for the next generation.
“I wake up every day absolutely loving my job and that’s because of the students that I teach not just the subject of art,” she said. “I’m very thankful that education is being continued through eLearning, but I miss my students. I am completely heartbroken that I have missed valuable time spent in the classroom with my seniors, knowing that they and I will never get that time back. I am thankful that this photo journaling assignment has allowed me to keep in contact with my students, has provided them an outlet and a way to continue creating, and allowed me further insight into their current lives and who they are.”