If a solution is going to be found for climate change, it will likely stem from conversations like those occurring in Sam Berendzen’s Environmental Science class at Francis Howell High School (FHHS). For their latest unit, students are making one-minute videos with proposed solutions on how to combat our changing climate and how to accommodate our growing population. It’s project-based learning at its finest, and may just include the answer to one of the world’s biggest problems.
The project does so much more than just develop creative video skills. It’s still a research-based project, but students also had to find visual stimuli to illustrate their point. They used graphs, pictures, and other visual aids to add life to the material. Some even used stop-motion videography to share their message. They had to be creative problem solvers, particularly technical difficulties. One student joked that he recorded his voice-over at 3 AM, and remembered saying to himself, “I hope my mom doesn’t think I’m talking to myself.” Another student mentioned his microphone wouldn’t work, but he was able to solve that problem by using the mic from his PlayStation (See, mom? Video games aren’t completely useless…).
“I just like it because it’s something different,” said FHHS student Carson Morrissey. “The last couple units, we’ve been writing research papers, which can be…well, kind of boring. So it’s fun that we got to make a movie by doing the same research, finding pictures related to our project, etc.”
Morrissey’s classmate, Faith Tolbert, said, “I actually want to go into film, and love making things – being crafty. This project made me want to go and learn more about science because the video aspect made it more interesting than just a research paper, making the content easier to learn. I’ve never really been that good at science, but this is the best I’ve ever done – partially because of the teacher (Berendzen). I wish more classes did video projects like this one.”
Berendzen’s enthusiasm and contagious laugh help the students relax when dealing with heavy subjects, but he also promotes a collaborative atmosphere. In critiques of their classmates’ videos, students were encouraged to give constructive feedback, offering them a chance to think through the process of why they were scoring the way they did. That added to the higher-level thinking involved in the project. So it wasn’t just an excuse to pop some fresh popcorn and watch some videos, these students were having fun while taking part in a discussion that has global ramifications.
“This is definitely my favorite class,” Morrissey said, “a class I think everyone should have to take because it really teaches you about how the world works, and how what we do affects our community and the environment we live in. Mr. Berendzen is my favorite teacher, and I feel like I pick up a lot of important things in this class that I can apply to the real world that will help me in my future.”
The student videos will be competing to be entries in a national contest, the World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest, and you’re invited to be part of the selection process. The event, at the FHHS Auditorium on Feb. 28, at 6:30 PM, will be a gathering of family and friends – or just those who want to learn more about climate change and how we can combat it. The eight best films from Berendzen’s four classes will premiere, with some discussion in between. Then the audience will get a ranking sheet to determine the overall winner.
There will be prizes for attendees, and a grand prize for the winner. The greatest prize, however, is the important conversation. We may not have the answers to climate change, but at least we’re talking about the problem.