The CAM Project
Tools for Bringing Student Media Production into Climate Change Education
Juliette N. Roon ey-Varga (Juliette_RooneyVarga@uml.edu) is director of the Climate Change Initiative at University of Massachusetts Lowell and an associate professor of environmental biology. Angelica Allende Brisk (ABrisk@cpsd.us) is an instructor at Cambridge Media Arts Studio, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Mitch Shuldman (Mitchell_Shuldman@uml.edu) is a librarian at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts; and Kenneth Rath (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a project evaluator at SageFox Consulting Group, Amherst, Massachusetts.
The Climate Education in an Age of Media (CAM) Project provides geoscience teachers with resources to bring student media projects into climate change education. We have found that these can be a powerful way to meet the challenges mentioned above while simultaneously fostering 21st century literacy skills, using active learning approaches, and empowering students to have a voice in societal discourse about a topic that will disproportionately impact younger generations (Rooney-Varga et al. 2014).
While still relatively uncommon in geoscience education, falling technological and cost barriers, the rapid growth of video as a communication medium, and an increasing emphasis on active, project-based learning all suggest that student video projects can be effective as pedagogical tools. Many of us rely on video sources for educational content as a means to "flip classrooms" or a way to enrich our own learning. Similarly, media literacy—the ability to learn from, critically evaluate, and use media to communicate with others—is considered an essential 21st century literacy (Mioduser et al. 2008). The ability to communicate through video is increasingly demanded of scientists (who often lack media literacy skills; Olson, 2009) and is likely to grow in importance as our students move into careers of their own. Lastly, a growing number of young people use video as an expressive form (Lenhart, 2012).
The Process of Media Production: Opportunities for Learning, Assessment
The media production process is typically viewed as having three phases: pre-production (including planning, research, and writing); production (where assets and resources are created and/ or gathered); and post-production (where everything is brought together, integrated, synthesized, assembled, and edited into a single coherent informative and aesthetic piece of communication). While we tend to focus on the media piece itself, the work needed to generate that piece provides many opportunities for learning and assessment. The end product is analogous to an iceberg, consisting of a small portion that is easily evident, while the vast majority of work and learning is "below the surface," during its creation.
For science education, the pre-production phase is especially important. Curriculum and assignments during this phase can easily be adjusted to meet specific educational needs and course goals. Students may do an original research project, collecting their own data. They may research the primary literature or other sources to see what they can find. Or they may be given explicit reading assignments or lectures that deliver science content for their project. For example, in the CAM Project resources for middle and high school grades, we have included short descriptions of feedback loops in the Earth-climate system. Assignments for more advanced undergraduate students require them to conduct their own review of primary literature sources. What is essential during the pre-production phase is that students gain sufficient mastery of the content to not only explain it to others, but to create a compelling piece that harnesses language (i.e., writing skills), as well as visual and audio representations of concepts in an integrated, fluent communication piece.
During the production phase, audiovisual assets are created or found. This phase typically involves group work, especially if filming is involved, with at least one team member manipulating the camera while others are being filmed or handling microphones and/ or lighting. It calls for extensive collaboration, discussion, problem-solving, and time management.
The post-production phase consists of editing audio and visual products into a coherent, integrated piece as well as disseminating that piece. The iterative process of editing provides an opportunity for learning through continued group discussions, as participants edit their narration and manipulate images, audio, and timing to deliver a message in a compelling manner. As they create their own pieces, students gain insight into the process by which the media they consume is produced and become more sophisticated consumers as a result.
A Sampling from the Cam Project Toolkit: Animation Projects
The CAM Project website provides information and resources for public service announcements, video mash-ups, person-on-the-street interviews, and visual storytelling and animations at http://cleanet.org/cced_media/your_classroom/index.html and samples of projects at http://cleanet.org/cced_media/cam_tv/index.html.
Learning Outcomes and an Invitation
External evaluation of the CAM Project approach has indicated its potential to foster intrinsic motivation, engagement, critical thinking, social learning, an interest in climate change beyond the classroom, and a sense of empowerment and agency (Rooney-Varga et al. 2014). Findings from surveys, student reflections on their experiences, and focus groups have provided evidence for gains in communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, conceptual and analytical abilities, students' understanding of climate change science concepts, and their commitment to addressing climate change. As for the undergraduate student media projects we studied, audiences who viewed student pieces online or at face-to-face "meet-the-filmmaker" screenings also showed gains in climate literacy and viewed students as trusted messengers about climate change science. We have found that screening events provide a forum for students to lead discussions about climate change science that engage their peers, families, and broader communities, offering opportunities for students to play the role of informal educators. In summary, we see strong potential for student media projects to engage students in learning about climate change science while simultaneously empowering them to have a voice in the societal discourse. We invite you to leverage CAM Project tools and bring student media projects into your own climate change education work.
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Olson, R. Don't Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2009.
Rooney-Varga, J. N., A. A. Brisk, E. Adams, M. Shuldman, and K. Rath. "Student Media Production to Meet Challenges in Climate Change Science Education." Journal of Geoscience Education 62, no. 4 (2014): 598-608. doi: 10.5408/13-050.1.