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Picture this: Cottage Grove Middle School students find photography a snap in after-school club

Members of the Cottage Grove Middle School Photography Club thought that their picture should be taken holding cameras. Members include Mallory Bannink, Amber Krasky, Alesandro Amores, Taylor Goldberg, Grace Stanley, Samantha Rigg, Gwen Sweeney, Zachary Stoffel, Nicholas Grundhauser, Jacob Grundhauser, Ashley Jensen, Elena Draheim, Katelyn Woehnites and Jessica Ross. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

About 20 Cottage Grove Middle School students who want to capture the moment meet on Wednesdays after school for Photography Club.

Robin Fate, a school counselor during the day, shepherds his charges through the ins and outs of shooting photographs. Those who don't have cameras of their own can use a school camera.

The after-school club is one of many offered at Cottage Grove and the other three district middle schools to capture student interest. Education research shows students do better in school if they are involved in clubs, sports or other after-school activities.

At a recent meeting, members studied the pictures of a cat taken by Nick Grundhauser. Having recently learned about "the rule of thirds," that states pictures are more pleasant to look at if they can be visually divided into three parts. Members looked for lines that led into the cat.

Members are respectful of each other's pictures, commenting on what they like.

Every week, members have a new assignment such as taking pictures of a landscape or an action shot, for example.

"You're capturing light in its different forms," Fate said.

Katelyn Woehnker, through photography club, found that she loves to take pictures of nature, especially animals.

"I learned to move slowly when going up to an animal," she said.

Many members are in the club for a second year including Samantha Rigg, who loves close-up photography. She offered up an engaging photo of fibers in the carpet in her bedroom.

Jessica Ross said she came to the club with a friend and found it was a lot more fun than she thought it would be. Fellow club member Gwen Sweeney said she prefers to take pictures of landscapes.

The club is a creative outlet after school. Middle schools finish their day at 2:35 p.m., leaving a lot of time to fill before parents arrive home from work. By joining a club, members are involved in an activity they enjoy and take the activity bus home at 4 p.m.

Fate, who built several darkrooms prior to going digital, has been an amateur photographer since high school. He enjoys sharing his passion with students.

"I'm always amazed how, at a very young age, kids already see compelling images with little or no instruction," he said.

An unspoken goal for Fate is that kids develop a sense of belonging and self confidence while in the club.

During the school year, Fate plans to have members shoot pictures around the school, at assemblies, for example. He'll also cover more of the technical aspects of photography as well.

The club is a unique opportunity to help people continue to appreciate what the world offers visually, he said.

"It then shouldn't be a great leap to hope students will appreciate what they see," he said, "whether that's other people, nature, shapes and even light itself."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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