Student Media Production for Climate Change Communication


The Climate Education in an Age of Media (CAM) Project brought together a team of scientists, science educators, media artists, and media instructors, to create curriculum materials and resources that give geoscience educators the tools they need to bring student media production into their own climate change education work.

Our approach has been successfully adopted in a wide range of instructional settings – from fourth-grade science curriculum, to high school science projects, middle and high school after school programs, and undergraduate and graduate courses (Conway, 2013; Rooney-Varga et al., 2014). CAM Project resources include curriculum, materials, and student exemplars for animation projects, person-on-the-street and expert interviews, public service announcements (PSAs), and video mash-ups, as well as examples of student-produced music videos, mock game shows, and film essays.

Climate change education offers many challenges and opportunities that may not be encountered in other Earth science topics. In the cognitive domain, challenges include its inherent complexity and dynamic nature, as well as the prevalence of misconceptions, or faulty mental models, about the climate system (Forest and Feder, 2011). Additional challenges often include psychological, affective, and social responses to information about climate change that can impede both discussion and learning (e.g., CRED, 2009). We have found that student media projects can be a powerful way to meet these challenges while simultaneously fostering 21st century literacy skills, using active learning approaches, and empowering students to have a voice in the societal discourse about a topic that will disproportionately impact younger generations (Rooney-Varga et al., 2014). The Climate Education in an Age of Media (CAM) Project provides instructors with resources to bring student media projects into climate change education.

While still relatively uncommon in science education, falling technological and cost barriers, the rapid growth of video as a communication medium, and the increasing emphasis on active, project-based learning all point to fertile ground for the growth of student video projects as a pedagogical tool. Many of us rely on video sources for educational content, as a means to “flip classrooms,” or as a way to enrich our own learning. Similarly, media literacy, or the ability to learn from, critically evaluate, and use media to communicate with others, is considered an essential 21st-century literacy (Mioduser et al., 2008). The ability to communicate through video is increasingly demanded of scientists (who often lack media literacy skills; Olson, 2009), and is likely to grow in importance as our students move into careers of their own. Lastly, a growing number of young people use video as an expressive form (Lenhart, 2012).

Research Team:
Juliette Rooney-Varga (UMass Lowell CCI), Angelica Allende Brisk (Cambridge Media Arts Studio), Tamara S. Ledley, and Kenneth Rath (SageFox Consulting Group LLC).

Literature Cited:
Conway, M. (2013). Yes We CAM: Youth Media for Climate Awareness December 2014.

CRED. (2009). The Psychology of Climate Change Communication: A Guide for Scientists, Journalists, Educators, Political Aides, and the Interested Public. New York.

Forest, S., & Feder, M. (2011). Climate Change Education Goals, Audiences, and Strategies: A Workshop Summary. Washington, D.C.: T. N. A. Press.

Lenhart, A. (2012). Teens and Online Video. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, Accessed April 2013.

Rooney-Varga, J. N., Brisk, A. A., Adams, E., Shuldman, M., & Rath, K. (2014). Student Media Production to Meet Challenges in Climate Change Science Education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 598-608. doi: 10.5408/13-050.1