Saturday, February 4, 2012

Consumers AND Creators by Laura

Just before winter break I was running through the class agenda with one of my seventh grade classes.  We'd spent the fall studying water quality and understanding the scientific explanations for how various forms of pollution affect aquatic ecosystems.  Part of the day's plan was to watch a short film about the aftermath of the Deep Horizon oil spill.

Ben, who didn't quite hear me, casually asked, "Did you say we're going to watch a movie, or make a movie?"

I stopped in my tracks.

His matter of fact tone was the arresting part.  Either making or watching was fine with him.  Even more, his tone implied, either watching or making a movie could be expected on the agenda in science class.  In his eight or so years of schooling, Ben and his classmates have come to expect a wide array of ways to acquire knowledge.  These students also have come to expect a wide array of ways to demonstrate, integrate and cement their understanding of what they are learning in school. 

Our school makes this array readily available to students because the internet, media and media making tools are available to all students, all day long.  As I stopped to explain to the class why Ben's comment made me so happy, another student said, "That's why our school is so awesome!"

Ben's matter-of-fact question also told me that he anticipates that in any given class he will be expected be a consumer of knowledge-- as watching a film will facilitate.  Clearly, though, he has also come to expect that he will be asked to show what he has constructed of his understanding, or be a creator of knowledge-- as making a movie will facilitate.

As it turns out, just a few weeks ago, Ben and his lab group did make a movie in science class. Students were asked to propose and promote a law that would improve a community's water quality. Having learned that motor oil drips from automobiles and then runs off into surface water, Ben's group proposed a law to mitigate the harmful effects of motor oil.  Their law required "green," or "G-oil" to be available for purchase, instead of just traditional oil.  (G-oil is an actual product.) 

Here is their promotion for their law:

In this production, Ben and his classmates showed me that they were able to continue to be consumers of knowledge:  they researched current solutions to the problem of motor oil pollution and they also integrated their knowledge about water quality into their pitch.  They also showed me they were creators:  they selected visual images that go beyond the obvious to  support their points, and they empathize with their audience in a way that allowed them to anticipate and address (through their use of rhetorical questions) arguments that might be raised in opposition to the proposed law.

Consumers and creators both!