Photography class gives students new opportunities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2018


CHINA GROVE — Soon, people in North Carolina and South Carolina will be able to see the artistic work of China Grove Elementary School students.

Eleven fourth- and fifth-graders have had photographs accepted for publication in Saplings Magazine, a literary magazine that publishes Carolina students’ work.

“It’s very exciting because it makes their hard work visible to them,” China Grove Elementary art teacher Michelle Allen said.

Allen coached the students in photography. The lessons are part of an initiative at the school, which allows students to choose an elective in each nine-week period.

“Children choose to take an additional class in their field of interest,” Allen said. “… It’s like a club, I guess you could say. It’s like a shortened club.”

During their lunch break, students can attend classes on a variety of subjects — including Allen’s black-and-white photography course. Allen has students use their iPads to take pictures of the world around them, but she encourages them to do more than just snap photos.

“We’re taking pictures of art elements, not things,” she said.

Allen tries to teach students the art of photography — the subtleties of light, positioning and field.

“We learned about different angles and different types of lighting,” fourth-grader Ethan Tran said.

Ethan is one of the students who will have his work published. Allen said she’s been submitting student work for publishing consideration since she started the class, but this is the first time any has been accepted.

“I was surprised,” student Brandi Phelps said of being published.

She and her classmates say they’ve loved learning about photography — whether it’s learning to crouch down or crane up to get that perfect angle or to pay attention to subtle details. Others said they find that photography offers then a chance to focus.

“You have to concentrate on something,” student Layla Basinger said.

Allen also likes to inspire a little competition with each class. Student photos are displayed in the hallways, and school staff and students vote on their favorites.

“They love competition,” she said with a chuckle.

Getting published is the next level for the students, she said. It feeds into their competitive spirit and also helps them share their vision with the world.

“The beauty that they saw, other people can enjoy,” she said.

Students whose work will appear in Saplings include Abbigail Morgan, Riley Yates, Josh Munoz, Hayden Honbarger, Alisa Barber, Olivia Maynor, Will Welch, Layla Basinger, Brandi Phelps, Ethan Tran and Julie Amezquita.

For more information on Saplings, visit

Allen will be teaching an arts summer camp beginning June 25. The Arts in the Community Camp will be at Horizons Unlimited and will study the local community through the lens of photography, art and writing.

The camp will run June 25-28. Registration is required. Visit for more information.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.