Producing Environmental Television
At Middlebury, we have a month-long Winter Term in January, where students each take one course or do an independent project or internship. Faculty typically teach every other year, and there are widely divergent opinions about the system. Many hate it, as there is a lot of class time each week and not much time for students to read and write, and there’s general consensus that it’s hard to cover a comparable amount of material as a regular semester. Those of us who are in favor of Winter Term (including me) often take advantage of the month to teach courses that are more experimental and project-based, using the intensity and compression to try new things with students.
This past month, I tried something very new for me, teaching a course called Sustainable Television: Producing Environmental Media. The idea was to spend the month producing short video pieces about environmental issues, focusing on our local community in Vermont, and compile the pieces into a long-form television show to air on our local public access and online. Additionally, we submitted individual pieces to Planet Forward, a website and PBS special spearhead by Middlebury alum (and former CNN anchor) Frank Sesno.
Amazingly, the students succeeded in creating a 48-minute show (available in full and in segments onour website) of impressive quality in less than a month. The students ranged in terms of previous video and environmental experience, but worked in effective teams to plan and produce segments across an array of topics, from local food to water quality, environmental art to home energy efficiency. My approach was fairly hands-off, serving as an Executive Producer guiding the timetable and providing feedback, while allowing students to make all of the relevant choices. Since my own technical and production experience is quite limited, I relied heavily on our superb staff technologist Ethan Murphy to get students up to speed using our equipment and guiding their production choices.
For me, it was a great experience in project-based pedagogy, focusing on getting the students to generate and produce their own content. And given that the more I read and hear about climate change makes me feel depressed and powerless, I was glad to apply my own resources and limited abilities toward creating environmental communication that might help engage and persuade viewers. If you watch it, I hope at least one of the segments informs or inspires you.
And as a taste, here’s the most whimsical and fun segment we produced:
Filed under: Middlebury, Teaching, Television, Vermont | 1 Comment
Tags: environment, production, sustainability