The elements were in place. I had clips from my “Toward Living Pono” documentary project that would stand alone nicely as conservation education modules. I had a potential partner willing to review and give feedback on my work. I had decided on the name “Malama: Taking Care” for the educational outreach component, to differentiate it from the documentary film itself. Now all that needed to be done was…create the study guides!
If you have been poking around “Indies Go to School,” you know what happened next. I started reading about 21st Century Learning, finding out about Project-based Learning, talking to teachers, TV stations, distributors, and curriculum writers. I found great examples of educational outreach and talked to the producers involved. And then rolled up my sleeves to pull it all together.
The result is a set of seven Hawaii State Standards-aligned clips and study guides that concentrate on Project-based Learning and the 21st Century concepts of media literacy, interdisciplinary skills, collaboration, and community involvement. Each clip is playable on YouTube and each study guide is a downloadable .pdf. They can all be found on their own webpage, at https://www.natureontheair.com/malama-taking-care
I pulled up to the guard shack and gave them my name. After finding it on the list the helpful guy told me to “follow the road down around to the lake, park in the designated area. Go into the courtyard past the Yoda statue and Amy will be there waiting for you.” Sure enough, after a brief ride down the beautiful Nicasio country road both Yoda and Amy were there to greet me at George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia. What a kick to be there. I’d have taken pictures but they would have had to kill me.
Amy Borovoy, aka “VideoAmy,” is Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia, a large online resource connecting teachers to 21st Century Learning best practices. She was warm, welcoming, and very patient with me as I tried to get it through my thick skull that though Edutopia does produce lots of video content, they are producing for TEACHERS, not STUDENTS.
It is not too surprising that the largest, most well-designed online resource for teachers and students to find and use educational media would have a home at PBS. Free of charge.
The most powerful aspect of the PBS LearningMedia website is apparent at first glance: two tabs at the top of the homepage are labelled “Browse by Standards” and “Browse by Grade and Subject.” This must be teacher nirvana. Everyone I have spoken to for this blog has said that alignment to standards is what makes good educational media so valuable in the classroom. PBS LearningMedia paid attention to teachers, undertook the massive task of indexing all the PBS system assets, and made them available in one, intuitive, accessible place. Bravo!
On the ITVS website the organization explains:
The Independent Television Service funds, presents and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on PBS.
I have applied to ITVS for funds on a few occasions and it has always been a pleasant experience. Some colleagues of mine have worked there. The atmosphere is one of support and encouragement for independent filmmakers, despite the realities of stiff competition and hard-and-fast PBS requirements. In my experience, ITVS is “the friendly face” that the PBS/CPB world turns toward us little indies.
John Hoskyns-Abrahall on the Evolution of Study Guides
I have had a great relationship with educational distributor Bullfrog Films since 2003. According to its website, “Bullfrog Films is the oldest and largest publisher of videos and films about the environment in the United States. Founded in 1973 it has been honored with a retrospective screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.” Bullfrog specializes in providing films to schools, and publishes an annual catalogue of titles that is highly anticipated each year. They have been the sole educational distributor of my documentary “A Lot in Common,” and have been in business pretty much forever. So co-owner John Hoskyns-Abrahall has a unique perspective.
For a few years in the 90’s I worked on staff at KQED-TV, and then continued as a freelancer in various capacities until around 2005. I still keep in touch (my live-work studio is only a few blocks away from the station!) and am always thrilled when my independent documentary projects are accepted for broadcast. Channel 9 is currently airing the fourth season of my Emmy-nominated series of nature shorts “Bay Nature on the Air.” I consider my dealings with one of the most-watched public TV stations in the PBS system among the most important of my business relationships as a producer. So I guess I can’t claim to be impartial when writing about their programs and projects.
But by any measure, from its early beginnings in 1954, San Francisco’s primary public TV station has been on the forefront of providing media for education. In the 90’s Milton Chen founded the predecessor of the current Education Department at KQED, before he moved on to George Lucas’ Edutopia. Right now there are many educational resources at the KQED website proper, in addition to what we’ll see they are doing with PBS LearningMedia. So for all these reasons it was really a treat to return to the TV station to meet and chat with Robin Mencher, Director of Education and Media Learning, about indie producers, media in education, and KQED.
Public TV station KRCB has presented the nationally syndicated anthology program “Natural Heroes” to PBS affiliates around the country for six seasons. I am very proud to have produced three segments that have been accepted to this Emmy Award-winning series. After receiving inquiries and positive feedback from educators, series producer Valerie Landes and General Manager Nancy Dobbs sought out a curriculum writer to create professionally produced lesson plans to go with their successful show.
They chose Suzie Boss, who spoke with me on the phone from Portland, Oregon about how central a role the 21st Century Learning concept of Project-based Learning (PBL) plays in her work. The beautiful materials can be downloaded from the “Natural Heroes” website.