V. Preparation

Now that we had a solid base, we decided to offer The Elwha Project as an elective science credit in the 2006-07 school year. The plan was for students to meet during zero period one day a week, throughout the year, to continue their studies and participation in the project. Participation would again be by application, and we planned to make a small increase in the number of students accepted.

We also realized that our students could be mentoring the 3rd-4th grade class in our alternative school complex for their own outdoor ed experience at OPI in May of each year. Our students could help teach lessons such as the life cycle of salmon; they could encourage an appreciation for a balanced, natural ecosystem and the importance of a healthy watershed; and they could create multicultural experiences with stories and myths learned from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

In Year 2, we began meeting every Friday morning, during zero period. The first semester was going adequately, as we sought to extend the lessons of the Elwha project to our local watershed and to Puget Sound.

Preparation lessons:

Using a six-day Seattle P.I. series on the crisis of water quality in Puget Sound (Oct. 9-14, 2006), “Broken Promises,” we had students do a jigsaw. Each group read an article, created a visual representation, then presented their findings to the class for discussion and evaluation.
We used a video of Dr. Seus’ The Lorax, to revisit the concept of Issue Analysis and to introduce several new members of our group to the key stakeholders, or “players,” in the issues surrounding the Elwha River.
Each student calculated his/her ecological footprint from the Earth Day site and discussed the results. [http://www.myfootprint.org/]

However, we found it hard to maintain academic momentum and rigor when we were only meeting 45 min. once a week, at an early hour, on a Friday morning. As the first quarter ended, teachers were searching for a way to invigorate our class beyond being a social hour with a compatible group of students. The solution was about to be dropped in our laps.

An unexpected phone call brought the answer. Bainbridge Island Television (BITV) had received a grant from the Bainbridge Island Arts Education Community Consortium, administered by BI Arts and Humanities Council, with funding from the Harvest Foundation. They wanted to mentor a group of students in producing a documentary film. Here was a way to not only document our participation in the Elwha Project and teach new skills, it was also a means to extend our students’ service learning to a new level.

When we thought about our designs for this project, as presented in our Essential Questions, we saw that a documentary would provide the impetus for in-depth research in the science behind the removal of the dams and subsequent restoration, as well as in the cultural and economic issues raised. The stories of the key players would need to be investigated. Students themselves would need to reflect on their experiences. This documentary, which would be widely distributed through BITV media outlets, would be a way for our students to reach a much wider audience. They would truly be getting a taste of what it means “to be the change.”

After some brainstorming, we decided to run the film class out of a regularly scheduled Language Arts class, in which many of the students were already enrolled. Our mentor from BITV would teach the techniques of documentary film making every Tuesday afternoon, during our two-hour afternoon block. Our L.A. teacher would supervise the class, as well as teach a modified version of the regular curriculum the other two days of the week.

BITV’s grant covered 18 weeks of this schedule, which began second semester. The first ten weeks involved learning filming techniques, critiquing professionally made documentaries, becoming familiar with the equipment, researching information, applying for specific jobs, story development, writing script and narratives, practicing interviews, and bonding with a wonderful, young and talented mentor from BITV.

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