by Augusta Chronicle Staff Writer, Sean Gruber
It’s not often that spotting a water moccasin snake elicits screams of delight rather than fear, but for the 23 youths touring the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, the rare sight was just another highlight of the Communities in Schools’ photography camp.
The middle school students spent Wednesday morning photographing wildlife, cypress trees and black water creeks, learning the history and natural features of the park as they traveled along trails and boardwalks. As the students eagerly snapped photos, many said they had never known Augusta could be “so beautiful.”
“I really enjoy the photography, but it’s also really given me a new look at my home,” Brooks Trollinger, 10, said. “I really see the greatness of God’s creation here, and now I can use a camera to help remember all of this.”
Creating a sense of pride in the Augusta community is the main goal of the “The World Around Us” week-long photography camp, which uses cameras and history lessons to link middle school students with their environment.
Funded by grants and organized jointly by the Communities in Schools and the Morris Museum of Art, the students are taught camera skills by local photographers, putting their new talents to use as they tour Augusta’s historical sites, cemeteries and parks. Executive Director Laurie Cook said the camp offers a view of Augusta that “many children don’t get to see.”
“It’s a great opportunity for all of these kids. Some of them have never really visited some of the sites we’re visiting this week. Some have told me they’ve never really crossed the river to visit some of the places around here,” Cook said. “They don’t know about the Cotton Exchange or the history of our local churches, for instance. They are amazed by some of the places they visit.”
The photographs taken by the campgoers will be archived, and some will be displayed in the Morris Museum’s Education Gallery.
Many of those attending the free camp enthusiastically embraced both their photography and history lessons.
Augusta resident Jolie Burdette said that she didn’t know what to expect when her parents signed her up, but it only took two days for her to realize she had joined “something special.”
“One of the historians we talked to earlier this week showed us pictures of historical sites as they were then and as they are now. You get to see how much things have changed here and how interesting this place really is,” Burdette said. “This park here is beautiful, and it’s so much fun taking pictures … I’m definitely coming back next year, and now I’m considering being a photographer as a job.”