HUMBOLDT PARK — If teachers John Oakford and Mary Ann Siegel can raise enough money to buy cameras for a student photography project about Chicago Avenue, they’ll give the kids but one marching order: Explore.
“We’ll give as little direction as possible,” said Oakford, a third-year biology and chemistry teacher of students at Rowe Clark Math & Science Academy, a Noble Network charter school at 3645 W. Chicago Ave. in West Humboldt Park.
Siegel and Oakford are calling their project “66 Shots,” so named for the CTA bus No. 66 that travels the east-west expanse.
But first, the students will need cameras. To raise the $900 needed to buy four cameras, Siegel and Oakford have taken to Donors Choose, a crowdfunding website connecting donors with worthy classroom projects across the country.
If the fundraising effort is a success — they have until March 2013 to raise the remaining $304 — they’ll distribute the cameras to groups of Rowe Clark juniors and set out on the eight-mile stretch.
The finished photographs will de displayed in classrooms and used as a springboard for discussion. Eventually, they hope to bring the project to the public through partnerships with organizations along Chicago Avenue.
Siegel, an American literature teacher, hopes the project will offer students perspective on their lives they might not otherwise see from the confines of the short walk or ride to school. (Siegel said she's taught one student who had never been downtown.)
That means the students will be seeing the best of the city and the worst. The project would take students from Lake Michigan all the way to Austin Boulevard and everything in between, including trendy neighborhoods packed with nightlife, skyscrapers and historical architecture and some of Chicago's most poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
“Authors speak about having to feel that isolation from others in order to write,” Siegel said. "I think that a camera lens will create that separation for students. I think they may see life differently when they travel to the rest of Chicago."
Visit this link on the Donors Choose page to read more about the project.