Environmental School Photo Hunt

Tamatha Roman, Kanda University of International Studies

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Photo hunt, environment, perspective
  • Learner English level: Intermediate 
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Activity time: 90 minutes
  • Materials: Blackboard, chalk, worksheet, students’ phones or cameras, timer

Environmental issues are a hot topic in today’s press, and in Japan, students may or may not realize the extent to which these issues surround them in their own school setting. This activity sends students around their school, taking pictures of the ways that the environment is present in their daily lives. This activity can be used as an introduction to environmental issues and an awareness-raising opportunity before delving into more specific environmental topics. As most students have personal smartphones, this is a great way to also incorporate technology and encourage creativity. Furthermore, students can be introduced to new vocabulary and engage in discussion using this vocabulary.


Step 1: Take a walk around your school and note potential photo opportunities that are somehow connected to the environment. Two examples already on the worksheet (see appendix) are “a place where you can fill up your water bottle” and “someone wearing Coolbiz.” Customize the worksheet so that it includes any original ideas. Items can also be tailored to incorporate topics that will be presented in future classes. Also, customize the number of photos in order to fit your class time schedule.

Step 2: Print out the worksheet.

Step 3: Ask students to bring their smartphone or digital camera to class for this activity.


Step 1: Get students to make pairs and hand out the worksheet. On the board, write “eco-friendly” and “not eco-friendly.” Have student pairs brainstorm ways that their school is environmentally friendly, and ways that it is not. For example, maybe the school has an extensive recycling system, or maybe it only provides disposable chopsticks in the cafeteria. After about 10-15 minutes, have some students come to the board and write examples under each category. Discuss any new vocabulary presented.

Step 2: Explain the rules of the photo hunt. Teams must go around the school and take pictures of items on the list. Have students read the items and go over any unknown vocabulary (vegan, for example). Also note that there are a few free spaces for students to add items they encounter on their hunt. 

Step 3: Send the students off on their hunt. Make sure to stress that there is a time limit and teams that come back after the time limit will lose points. Also, it’s important to note that teams cannot separate! As the teacher, feel free to wander around with the students and help clarify any items on the list. 

Step 4: When the students come back, ask them to sit together in small groups with another team or two. Have the groups go through the checklists together and calculate the total number of pictures they took. 

Step 5: After calculating their points, have teams compare pictures and answer a series of post-activity questions. For example, what was similar or different between the pictures? Which items were difficult to find and why do you think this is? What extra pictures did you take and why? During this time, the teacher should walk around, answer any questions, and help encourage deeper analysis of the questions.

Step 6: As an extension, have students select their favorite photo and discuss why they chose it and the environmental issues surrounding the photo. Also, ask them to find a news article related to the issue.


This activity can be a great way to help teachers become aware of students’ prior knowledge about the environment in their own localized setting, while introducing some content-related vocabulary. I have found that students genuinely enjoy the timed aspect of this activity and using their own phones for the purpose of taking pictures. This activity allows students to creatively express their own perspectives on their environment as well as choose their own pictures. In future lessons, it is possible to refer back to what they learned from this activity.


The appendix is available below.