P.O. Box 3913 • Urbandale, IA • 50323 explore@cultureall.org 515-273-8569

Hiatt Middle School

Yesterday I met with twenty-six seventh graders who are this years participants of our Photoethnography(PhotoVoice) program.  The program is a venue through which the students talk about culture, gain a better understanding of one another, and achieve a better appreciation for their differences as well as the many things that they have in common. They do this by learning about photography and by taking 24 pictures of their own culture with their very own cameras.

During my visit, Diane Cutler, who facilitates the program, was collecting the 26 cameras.  She explained to the class that when she brings the developed pictures back, each student will look through their collection and select the best picture for the 2011 PhotoVoice Exhibit.

After collecting all of the cameras, Diane asked each student to write about where they were from and what beauty meant to them.  As students were writing, I noticed one young lady who was not doing much.  Diane came over to her a few times and encouraged her, but the young lady was not putting much on the paper.  A few minutes later her friend, who sat across from her, showed her what she wrote.  The girl smiled, gave a compliment and began writing.

As the students were finishing up, a few decided to share what they wrote.  Diane began to read the first paper and silence fell over the room.  All the chatter and laughter stopped.  All you could hear was Diane reading.  The students were thinking and listening.  When Diane finished, the whole room erupted in applause.  One after another, more students asked for their paper to be read.  Towards the end of the class, a student walked up to the teacher and asked if she could have her paper back.  When she received it, she took her pencil out, erased the word “anonymous” and replaced it with her first name.

The writing exercise was only 5 minutes.  If you had come into the classroom during the reading time, you would have thought that this was a year-long writing exercise.  Des Moines has very talented students!

We’ll be sharing more information about the 2011 PhotoVoice Exhibit soon!  It is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24th.

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