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Frazee-Vergas fifth graders capture their artistic sides

Lewis Helmers focused on the texture and details of plants at Forest Edge Art Gallery. Photo by Lewis Helmers

When turned lose with a camera, Frazee-Vergas fifth grade students came back with some amazing results.

Located a couple miles southwest of Vergas, Forest Edge Art Gallery owners Patrick Shannon and Helena Johnson invited the students to return for a second year for photography and learning opportunities.

Photo by Hunter Hruby

While at the gallery last month, the students took part in three 45-minute mini-learning sessions, including Nature Poetry taught by Andy Mekalson, a lesson and time to sketch taught by Linda Beilke, Frazee art instructor, and a session where the students explored the Gallery’s property and took pictures.

“We wrote about the things around us in nature,” fifth grader Kaylee Hiemenz said of the poetry session.

They also worked on sketching, she said, but “I liked the photography. It was fun.”

Before going out to the gallery, Nancy Jacobson, science & technology instructor at Frazee-Vergas Elementary School, teaches a two-week unit on photography, the elements of good composition and settings on digital cameras.

The Nikon Coolpix S550 cameras the students used are loaned to the district through the Bridge to Nature Photography Project sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The image Hiemenz captured was that of a smile, made of water drops on a leaf.

Photo by Kaylee Hiemenz

“I was walking by a pond, saw the leaf and thought it looked like a smile,” she said of finding the image.

She said the other photos she took that day were blurry or “some were hard to explain. I didn’t have a reason, I just took a picture.”

The reason she needed a reason was because after they got back to the classroom and decided on their favorite photo, they had to write a paragraph about why it was their favorite.

“Students also must complete a final project explaining the why behind their photo of choice using the information taught in the unit. It is exciting and one I like to call a ‘life skill and hobby,’” Jacobson said.

Art teacher Beilke said the field trip was to “integrate language arts, photography and visual arts.”

Hunter Hruby decided to take his picture of a pine tree from a different perspective.

Photo by Devan Nelson

Jacobson said the kids were having a competition to see who could get the most “extreme shot without climbing trees or buildings.”

Hruby got his by standing right under the tree and shooting upward.

“It had so much texture and pattern on it,” he said was his reason for picking the pine tree shot as his favorite.

The way the sun shone through the branches also caught his eye.

“I thought I would do something different,” he said.

Abby Nagel was looking at something different when she captured a piece of artwork because “I thought it looked really cool from where I was standing. I thought it looked like gravity was pulling it up.”

She said she took roughly 15 pictures to find the one she wanted to write about.

Photo by Abby Nagel

“I had a really good time out there,” she said.

The sculptures were also used for the drawing portion of the field trip. After finding a few of the many sculptures each student liked best, “they drew several sculptures from different views, including close-up and as part of the landscape,” Beilke said.

She said the students commented multiple times about the “real artwork” located at the gallery and its grounds.

“We learned a great deal about different methods and techniques used to create art and saw how they are displayed and presented to the public,” Beilke said. “This was a wonderful learning opportunity and a wonderful resource so close to our school.”

Jacobson said last year — and she plans to again this year — she created a calendar with the students’ pictures on it and gave it to Shannon and Johnson as a thank you for opening their gallery to the 75 “budding photographers” and their chaperones.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.