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Let’s Talk About Water!
Using Film Screenings to Engage Students and the Public in Water Science & Policy Crafting the Experience: Hosting a Successful “Event” 1 1 2 Jennifer Arrigo , Rick Hooper , Linda Lilienfeld
Crafting the Experience: Bringing the Science In
Identify and Attract your Audience
The LTAW program has been generously supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant 0753521, grants from the Johnson Family Foundation, and a gift from Asa Johnson.
A Simple But Effective Formula
Let’s Talk About Water (“LTAW”) is a film symposium designed to bring together experts and students and/or the public to talk about the complex water issues facing society. CUAHSI has over 100 university members, and hundreds of scientists in our community that are educators, experts, and researchers on a broad swath of water science and policy topics. The LTAW program is meant to provide simple formula and tools for helping our community effectively share their expertise, promote a scientifically literate society, and encourage careers in water science.
• We seek to replicate the successful aspects of Community Environmental Film Festivals in an experience tailored to our university audiences. • An LTAW event uses a simple but effective format of a film screening followed by a panel discussion. • 19 events since 2009 for various audiences and venues.
The best films tell a compelling story, but many popular water documentaries leave students (and educators) with questions. What do we do next? Where was the science? What’s the angle?
Example: Our Experience with Gasland Events An have targeted lower-level Successful community and campus events require careful planning. undergraduates to teach them about water science and water careers, high school students as an enrichment exercises, and the general public as a way to increase environmental awareness Carefully and specifically defining your audience affects everything – from your choice of film to your engagement strategy. For a typical undergraduate target audience, consider Student groups from past events havepartnering with “targeting” certain courses, used flyers, Facebook, and Tother instructors, and/or shirts! offering extra credit.
Build the Buzz
Engage the campus “community” by directly partnering with student groups and having them publicize and help define the event. Consider adding some Star Power if possible.
“A particularly powerful medium through which to educate the public about environmental issues.”
Documentary Films and the “Film Festival Experience”
When used correctly, films – either as “clips” or in their entirety – can be an important resource for both traditional and informal environmental educators1. • Provide a visual and sensory experience and engage the audience emotionally • Can reach students who may find other media inaccessible or difficult • Can tell a compelling story and demonstrate the social relevance of science • Often have some science content with “flashy” or “fun” graphics or animations that can help explain complex concepts. • Provide an opportunity to impart critical thinking skills by challenging or examining the claims and assumptions presented in the movie from an objective science view point. • Can motivate and promote further research on a subject or event, and provide links to different disciplinary perspectives Film used in a classroom, with proper pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing contexts, can provide a concrete focus for instruction on topics or for engendering class discussion or debate. Many of the lessons and concepts of LTAW can be used in a classroom setting. Our LTAW “Events” add an additional dimension of fostering an “experience” akin to what has been reported on from successful community environmental film festivals. Some key factors2 are: • There is an ability to visually transport people to places they otherwise could not experience • Audience watches and learns together • Expert discussion enhances the communal-educational experience • Integrating community organizations in coordination increases the reach and roots into the community Our goal in an LTAW event is to harness the educational power of the film, model the key concepts of the film festival experience, and craft an experience that heightens students’ engagement and interest in water science.
A major focus of the LTAW program is to provide the resources and context to effectively “bring the science” to the post-viewing discussion. What’s the expected impact of the film?
Jan Schlichtmann, the lawyer from A Civil Action, speaks at a Boston-area LTAW event
Prep the Panel
Have the panel meet and view the film before the event, and perhaps add in a little good Actively Manage the Discussion food and wine! A sense of collegiality and shared viewing experience can significantly enhance the panel interaction with each otherOn the day of the event, actively and the audience. manage the post-viewing
What are the key science questions?
Is it explicit? Can we draw from the film? Are there supplementary materials?
What expertise should the panel have?
Gasland is an Academy Award nominated documentary film, written and directed by Josh Fox, that focuses on Hydraulic fracturing and its possible effects on the environment and human health. Because of its popularity and publicity, and because it focuses on water quality impacts of “fracking,” this film was used in several LTAW events since it came out in 2010. Our Experience. The film doesn’t readily lead the audience to ask questions; rather, is more representative of a personal journey that concludes that fracking isn’t worth it, inferring the topic is closed to discussion. Additional materials are necessary to broaden and to deepen the discussions that will ultimately lead to questions, such as “Can the potential of shale Post-viewing Pre-viewing gas be realized in an environmentally acceptable manner?”
Water issues can be a serious subject, but the event can still be “fun!”
Get the audience to LTAW Pre- and Post- Viewing recognize the potential benefits of shale gas – why would we want this development? Utilize resources from “pro-fracking ” organizations like API
Challenge the Strategy audience to reconcile the conflicting viewpoints. Identify risks points within “ideal fracking representation” Introduce science concepts like geologic formations for
Norman, M.E., 2000, Public Education Through Community Based Film Programs: A Report on the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, J of Environmental Education, 31(2), 28-30.
View the film to expose the audience to the environmental and health costs of fracking
RESEARCH POSTER PRESENTATION DESIGN © 2012
• What We’ve • Lear Learned – Key n
discussion. Our typical event has a “lunch break” between film and discussion, which allows panelists to talk with audience members informally, keeps the energy “up,” and allows hosts to collect and organize audience questions on cards. After the break, we have short intros, segue into relevant topics, and encourage panelists to share personal stories and career advice. We have found we can of film festivals Re-creating the community experience for undergraduate audience easilysustain 60-90 minute Students are enfranchised in the program A well-crafted diverse panel that involves local discussions in this format. experts, several facets and hopefully some “star
power.” An “intermission” that helps keep energy up, organizes the discussion, and helps lower the “barriers,”, especially with students A well-prepared host and possible supplemental materials An energetic and skilled moderator to keep us out of “lecture mode.”
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