FLETCHER — A Fletcher Elementary School student has published a new book and completed a five-stop author’s tour. Sixth grader Monica King, author of the new book, Around Fletcher Elementary ABC Find, says that she has always had an interest in photography and writing, so when the opportunity to combine two of her passions presented itself, she jumped at the chance.
“When I was seven, I started watching videos online and that was what got me interested in photography,” King said. “I spent less time actually paying attention to the video and more time looking at the setting and the background and envisioning what that would look like as still pictures. That’s when I decided I wanted to create my own photographs.”
At age nine, King received her first camera as a gift from her father. She began experimenting with its features and, “taking pictures of everything, inside and outside.” During the three years since, she has established a collection of digital and film cameras, some from antique shops she visited with her father.
“I’m really interested in how cameras work,” King said. “There’s a little bit of magic in how an idea becomes a picture.”
Through a partnership with the Greater Burlington YMCA, who also provides Fletcher Elementary’s After-School Program, King was able to participate in an independent study focusing on photography. The school’s YMCA Site Director, Hallie Wolklin, who has formal training in the visual arts, supported King as she explored elements of photography and publishing.
“I began looking at objects differently,” King said. “As we took lots of pictures I noticed that many things actually have the same shape as letters of the alphabet. I challenged myself to find a items that looked like each letter and to photograph it.”
If there were any question that King is a photographer at heart, that was dispelled when, mid-interview, she observed the blustery weather outside and proclaimed, “That would make a great picture.”
King’s collection of alphabet-inspired photographs began to grow, as did her skills as an artist. She credits Wolklin with teaching her the technical aspects of photography, including perspective and choosing a good background.
“Perspective is another way of seeing something,” King said. “People can look at the same thing and see it completely differently. I love that. We thought about how to change a picture by changing how it’s photographed.”
Following a painstaking editing, cropping and resizing effort, King’s collection of alphabet photographs has been professionally published as a full-color book, which lead to a recent author’s tour including stops in elementary classrooms at BFA-Fairfax and Georgia Elementary, as well as the Fairfax Community Library and the Franklin West Supervisory Union offices.
“I’m feeling positive about the book and my tour,” King said. “I love the book, but I also know changes I will make the next time I publish. I was a little nervous to be on tour. I wasn’t sure what other people would think about my work, but it was worth the risk. Their faces lit up when they saw the pictures and could figure out where the letter is on each page.”
Of publishing her work, King said, “I wanted other people to see my pictures and I wanted to show that kids can do the same things as adults, for the most part.”
King’s interest in photography continues. She is working with Wolklin to create a pinhole camera from a washing machine box for the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Night next month. She also participates in weekly online photography challenges.
“Right now I am researching the science behind early cameras to help make my gigantic pinhole camera a success,” King said. “In order to do great photography, you need to know the science behind it. Writing is also important because you need to be able to describe what the picture is showing.”
Before long, King may be hunting down letters of the alphabet beyond Fletcher. She hopes to take photography classes in middle and high school and eventually travel to the Amazon Rainforest to photograph plants and animals in their natural environment.
“You need to know what you want and have a plan,” King said. “That’s true with pictures and your future.”
“This project is a fantastic example of how Fletcher encourages and supports multiple pathways to learning,” Superintendent Ned Kirsch said. “The work was personalized based on the student’s interest and allowed her to take on a leadership role as a successfully published author. Fletcher created a flexible learning environment and worked with community partners to completely immerse this student in an authentic experience that she will never forget. This type of learning is the work of all of our FWSU schools.”
Along her tour, King donated signed copies of her book at each stop.
Editor’s Note: Chris Dodge is the principal of Fletcher Elementary School.