Engaging Secondary Students in Regionally Relevant Science Topics Through Videography - Lens on Climate Change



One of today’s equity challenges is the need to increase media literacy among all students, especially traditionally marginalized students. Watkins (2012) challenges educators when he states, “Tools literacy is foundational; design literacy is tranformational” (p. 9).  In this chapter, implementation models for seven different types of media projects that have been successfully piloted with 78 secondary students primarily from impoverished backgrounds are provided (Gold et al., 2015; Rooney-Varga et al., 2014). Results from the evaluations show that students’ experiences while participating in these projects were transformational. The students felt a strong sense of accomplishment and pride, which translated to increased confidence and sometimes even an interest in attending college as reported by their teachers. Students who were typically not interested in science topics took an interest in their own projects, stepped up their participation, and worked hard to “get the job done.” Students with a broad array of interests—from artistic to more academically inclined—found a way in which they could contribute to the projects; thus, the projects provided an inclusive space.

While working on their media projects, participating students gained experience in the full spectrum of media skills—from the simplest form of consuming media in order to find inspiration from different genres to learning about their subject matter and acquiring higher order media skills, including the planning, executing, and sharing of media projects. Not only did students learn a variety of media skills, they also learned soft skills like the development of interview protocols, communication with professionals, interview techniques, and how to be a good listener. Students were required to organize their ideas and provide feedback internally to their team; in addition, each student needed to find their role in the process. Team members worked together and developed the ability to collaborate. All of these are important life skills.

Through their research, students learned about the challenges of climate change and how climate change will affect their local communities. The process of developing the concept map or storyboard and writing a script exposes misconceptions. It also forces students to make connections and to take the fragmented pieces (such as interviews, animations, and B-roll) and meld them together to create a cohesive and compelling story. As the students stepped through the components of their media projects, they also practiced the Scientific Practices described in the NGSS. These media projects allowed for a seamless integration of the practices in the classroom.

Although not explicitly an objective of the two projects, the work with teachers and students exposed the power of partnerships. For example, although it is generally believed that the majority of schools have bridged the “tools” divide, the LOCC program ran into this roadblock at a high-poverty school. The Whittier ECE-8 School did not have powerful enough computers to download large video files and allow editing of the footage. LOCC created a partnership with CU, which was able to provide the equipment necessary to carry out and complete the video project. (Of course, a lack of computing power and high speed Internet does not need to be a barrier to media projects; some of  the media projects highlighted in this chapter  require only a cell phone or an iPad to complete.) 

More importantly, the partnership between the mentors and students provided the students with role models who were not much older than themselves; the mentors offered the students personal insights into academic careers. They also got to know these young scientists as “real” people who were not bespectacled, gray-haired, white men—the stereotypical image of a scientist. Bringing the students to campus was valuable and extended the experience of the media projects. It allowed students a glimpse into college life, and some of the students could see themselves as college students in the future. A possible way to develop such a partnership is to contact a nearby two- or four-year post-secondary institution to inquire about partnering and whether college students would be interested in mentoring. Most universities have an outreach program or department, which would be the first place to inquire about such a partnership. 

           Taking on a media project might be daunting to an educator. Shorter-duration media projects, such as visual storytelling or animation, can provide a means to gain first-hand experience in the field. Developing partnerships within the school and collaborating with a technology teacher or a technology class for the implementation of such a media project might provide another avenue to increase the available media expertise that students can access.

          As the projects discussed here have shown, media literacy can be transformational for students.  The guidelines described in this chapter will support schools as they incorporate media projects into their classrooms or informal program offerings, thus narrowing the media literacy divide.



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L. Smith
A. Gold
D. Oonk
D. Morrison
Media Literacy as a Pathway to Bridge the Digital and STEM Divides: Interest Driven Media Projects for Teachers in the Trenches (a
Cultural Relevance, Equity, and Diversity
Youth Motivation and Interests in STEM
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Additional Disciplines
Environmental Science - general