Complex topics require complex narratives, and complex narratives are difficult to convey. The first three senior classes to make an energy documentary made mistakes that helped this year's class reach for high quality in their work. For example, former groups had relied heavily on stock footage and a simple story that didn't convey much of what they had learned; they didn't grasp the importance of a compelling narrative; and they didn't develop the script in a way that really drove the organization and story. If the student s wanted to tell a compelling story that really addressed their essential question, they could not rely on an oversimplified script or a generic segment of stock footage. Like anything in EL Education - or in life, for that matter - the grapple is where the learning happens, and students struggled with their task. The team of teachers supported them in this struggle but treated it as a necessary part of their learning. and the final film shows this growth. Although the focus on high-quality work has always been part of the expedition, increasing content depth and complexity was key to making that high-quality work manifest. And, of course, the inevitable reality of lots of revision!
"Working with Steve Alves was interesting, because I had never worked with a professional filmmaker before, and it was also a little bit humbling to be told how my editing could be improved, especially by someone as skilled as he is, but it was an incredibly useful experience and helped me become a better editor." Luka
Students working on editing a chapter of the film
Another source of motivation for our students to do high quality work was their critique of a documentary students from a school in Rhode Island did about the Block Island project. They watched the film and took notes specifically on qualities they wanted to strive for in their film and mistakes they wanted to avoid. They noted the necessity of having a story that wasn't just the "How Block Island Wind came to be" but had more complexity. Thus, when fine-tuning the essential question of the movie, they decided to do a comparative study. Their final question was: Why did the Block Island Wind project succeed when Cape Wind failed, and what is the future of offshore wind in Massachusetts? Another aspect they really focused on in their critique was the importance of conducting, filming and editing quality interviews. To that end, the interview team worked with professional interviewer, Peggy Gillespie, of the Family Diversity Project, to learn and then practice interview skills; they drafted and did multiple revisions of interview questions; they practiced filming interviews with multiple cameras, and edited interview footage to eliminate the student interviewers who were on tape asking questions.
"Seeing the movie the kids at the Greene School made, made me really want to do better. Their film was ok, but I could see so many ways to make it better and I thought, ok, we're going to make our film be amazing." - Milou
"I learned a lot about interviewing skills, and how to ask follow-up questions to get the most information and the best story." Keegan
Since finishing the film and screening it at the Garden Cinema, the Four Rivers seniors have been invited to show it at the University of Massachusetts as part of a seminar series in the IGERT program , and also by Greening Greenfield, in an initiative to spotlight youth activism. Our students have seen that they have the power to inform an essential debate about our future and they see themselves as change agents.
"It's a great feeling to think that the what we've done has the power to change peoples minds and they way they think about this issue." - Henry
"The things we thought were so impossible at the beginning were my favorite parts, just watching is all come together and thinking 'Oh, my gosh, we MADE this!'" Audrey