Tag Archives: questions

Photo-Inquiry…Art, Science, and Writing

I’ve been taking pictures every day for more than a year now.  Some days it’s a struggle, other days it’s pretty easy.  But one of my favorite things about being a photographer (albeit, amateur) is that it makes me pay attention…and ask lots of questions.

Yesterday I was up in our local mountains enjoying all that fall brings…colors and pumpkins and apples…on a warm fall day.  As I was photographing some beautiful leaves turning orange and red and yellow, I noticed this beautiful pine tree.

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Looking closely, I was fascinated by the texture of the bark on the tree.  And an even closer look revealed all these tiny holes…with many filled with acorns or other nuts.

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That observation set off a million questions…how does this happen, what animal does it? Does it hurt the tree?  Is it squirrels?  And then I noticed this nearby fence post.

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So it’s not only about trees…it’s about wood.  I noticed the nearby utility pole also had holes and nuts.

With all these questions running through my head, we continued our adventure and I continued to look for interesting subjects for my photography.  A while later, at the edge of a little pumpkin patch I looked up and saw a beautiful blue bird with red markings high up on a utility pole.  I thought it might be some kind of jay, but my husband was quick to point out that it was tapping the pole…a woodpecker!

We watched closely, listening to the persistent tapping as it pecked into the top of the pole.  I attempted several photographs…but one thing the iphone camera is not good at is long distance photos!  Here’s an attempt.

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If you look closely you can see a tiny silhouette at the top the pole.  As I watched I started to make connections to the pine tree and fence post I had photographed earlier.  These holes with the acorns in them were the work of an acorn woodpecker!  A little internet search today led me to this information:

The group will guard their territory, and will often have a single tree in which they store their acorns; known as a granary. A single granary may contain tens of thousands of acorns. The acorns themselves are placed individually into a hole drilled into the tree. Acorn Woodpeckers also feed on insects (including aerial flycatching), sap, and fruits.

I love that photography always ends up teaching me interesting things about nature and about the world.  It makes me pay attention, notice details, and ask questions.  It makes me curious…and makes me wonder…a perfect tool for inquiry!  And as I write this on the National Day on Writing, I get to share my photography and learning with you!  #write2connect in action!

How do you write to connect?  What do you learn from the activities you love?

Too Much of an Interesting Thing…

When I first spied the mushroom in my front yard I saw it as a photo opportunity.  I watched it grow, seeming to magnify right before my eyes.  I watched it for days until I found it kicked across the yard one morning–and then, once it was turn upside down, I captured what I had missed by looking at only the outside surface with my camera.

The following week I noticed a few more mushrooms growing in my lawn.  Again, I watched them grow…this time with some “portholes” to look inside and see what was beneath the surface.  I got out my macro lens and worked to capture my secret view of the underside of the mushroom.

And then this morning it seemed that an entire forest of mushrooms has exploded on my lawn!  One was so round and on a tall stem…looking almost like a lollipop.  When I got home–late (meeting and then traffic)–that forest had ballooned, each mushroom doubling in size from this morning.  And while my photos don’t really capture the drama of the growth, my eyes registered it.

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And now I’m thinking that these fascinating mushrooms are becoming a problem.  What started as an interesting novelty has become a bit of an eyesore.  Just where do these mushrooms come from?  What effect do they have on my lawn?  How do they multiply?  What is making them thrive in my lawn?  And now…how do I get rid of them?

Early morning update:  As my husband was leaving for work, he came back into the house saying, “The fairies are having a field day at our house!”  I looked out the door…the mushrooms are enormous this morning!  They ballooned overnight–and the biggest among them are between 6 and 8 inches across.  Here’s a picture trying to capture the magnitude.  (The photos don’t really capture the size adequately!)

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Generating Questions–Photo Style

On this last day before my students arrive for a new school year I squeezed in that last (and infrequent even during the summer) leisurely morning in bed, ran a few errands, did a bit of work unrelated to the classroom, and pushed myself to fit in some exercise.  (Exercise is one practice I have yet to firmly establish in my life!)  And on that brisk and fairly long walk I wondered what I would write about today.  The last thing I want to do on this blog is rattle off the mundane details of my life.

Lacy (@nowawake) reminded me this morning on a conference call about her variation on a design activity I had worked on at the Intersections Design Institute in Denver where photography was used as a venue for science learning.  In her variation, Lacy takes pictures that generate science questions (check #sciencequestions on twitter for some examples) as a way to create curiosity and genuine inquiry.  I’ve been taking these science question photos for a while now–but haven’t posted any of them.  Somehow, today seems like the right day to highlight some of these questions.

I was thinking on my walk about how I decide that I have a question and pause to take a picture.  Do I ask questions about things I already have some theories about possible answers?  I think I do…I think I ask questions about things I am on the verge of understanding rather than things I know nothing about.  Does it take some awareness to know to ask the question?

This first science question comes from my beach walk on Sunday.  I noticed this dry sand under little piles of kelp along the beach.  I walk on the beach quite a bit, but haven’t noticed this phenomenon before.  As you can see, the rest of the sand is damp, but directly under the kelp the sand looks dry and churned up.  I have two possible hypotheses about why–either some little sea creatures hitched a ride in to the shore on the kelp and then burrow into the damp sand or some sea birds churn up the sand as they feast on sea creatures.  What do you think?  I’ll have to dig into this question to see what others know about this.

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On today’s exercise walk I noticed this fence with many breaks and holes in it.  I was wondering how the fence was so damaged and then I noticed this flower literally growing through cracks in the fence.  Were the other holes caused by plant growth or something else?  How long does it take for a plant to break through the wood of a fence?

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I was also noticing lots of fire hydrants.  Most of them are quite similar–yellow and squat with metal caps on the openings.  Then I walked by this skinny hydrant (or is it a fire hydrant?), I actually had to double back to take a photo.  Just ahead of me was one of the those typical squat hydrants–but this one had plastic caps instead of metal caps.  What’s the reasons for these variations?  And then I wondered as I continued my walk–are these science questions or are these social studies questions?

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And that got me wondering about some of the bus stops I passed.  I passed one with a bench and a trash can in front of it.  Then a little further on I noticed a woman waiting by a bus stop–and there was neither a bench nor a trash can.  So how are decisions made about which bus stops get benches and which don’t?

I love the way taking photos makes me take the time to ponder the questions that arise as I survey my world.  They also give me a visual reminder to go back and explore those inquiries. How do you document your questions about the world?  Do you follow those inquiries to find answers?  What are you wondering about?

Urban Art?

There are two of these nailed to the telephone poles on either side of this bridge-like structure near my school.  I passed them yesterday without stopping, but today I had to take the time to capture a photograph.  They have me wondering and asking questions.

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Are they urban art?  An advertisement for something?  They can definitely work as a writing prompt!  What do you think?  What story would you tell?