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Student Projects

Through My Eyes: Photography and Literacy

Authors: Shayna Cribbs, Brooke Newman

Grade: 3rd

Subjects: Art, Graphic Design, Humanities, Science

Photos arranged on the floor
Child standing in front of blue wall
Photo of hands
Pieces of me exhibition
Boy holding fist
Children writing about their photos
sky with clouds and tree branch

Third Grade students undertook a year-long study of photography, integrating science, literacy, writing, social studies, and art. The study culminates in an exhibit for parents, other students and community members. Through My Eyes began and continues to flourish with the support and guidance of Outside the Lens (, a local community arts non-profit.

One of our projects was a color book. The kids were earning about elements of design in photography, including color, pattern, vantage point, light, framing, etc. Each child chose a color, and then we took a neighborhood walk, in which they took photos of that color. They also looked for the other elements of design that we had studied.

For the writing part of the book, the children brainstormed images related to the five sense that were suggested by their color, i.e. PINK: lemonade on a hot day. Part of the idea was to encourage them to come up with vivid details. These brainstorms then became the material for poems or prose about their color, which went into an accordion book of photos and writing.


The impact of this year-long study is best described in the words of our third graders:

“This exhibit shows you what we love about ourselves. We are all unique and have different thoughts. In this exhibit, you will see photographs and writings. We want you to see that writing isn’t just a story, it is life. This project took a lot of hard work, and all


This project educates children about environmental issues while instilling an appreciation and passion for nature and the earth. Students study famous nature photographers; explore nature in San Diego; and capture it on film. Last year our students also studied nature haiku poems and wrote haikus inspired by their nature photographs.

Students explore the idea of identity through writing and photographing the “best part” of themselves. They learn to act as an art director, designing and setting up a self-portrait, which is taken by another student.



This year-long cultural exchange promotes global understanding through photography and writing. Students from Explorer Elementary first learn about Africa, then share letters, poetry, and photography with children from the Tunahaki Foundation orphanage in Tanzania


Students examine their beliefs, customs, and the familiar practice of their families. Through the use of poetry and photography, students combine family memories to create a story about their lives.

After studying legends from many cultures, students create their own legend about an animal from the San Diego Zoo, using the techniques of photojournalism: lead photo, environmental shot, interaction shot, close up, long shot and direct view as a photojournalist does. Students are also responsible for gathering information about the origin/habitat of plants and animals to aid them in writing their legend.