Being awe-struck by nature comes very natural to me (see what I did there!?), although becoming a teacher wasn’t always a goal of mine growing up, doing something where I ended up working with Planet Earth and Mother Nature was.
So anything which combines the two – teaching and nature, is a winner. Particularly things which make nature accessible to a wider audience.
Although he wouldn’t like to be labelled as such, Sir David Attenborough is a national treasure for us Brits. Many of us, me included, would love for him to be their grandad. Some people think that if they imagined ‘God’s’ voice, it would be his (move over Morgan Freeman!). Those may be light-hearted debatables, but what is pretty much indisputable is how documentaries he has lent his talents to have brought nature closer to Jane & Joe Public’s hearts and minds.
His most recent gift to us via the BBC has been Blue Planet II.
Given that I have been away traveling I have only just been able to start catching up on it via BBC iPlayer. If you have any means of watching this documentary, or any other the BBC Earth documentaries for that matter, it would never be a waste of your time!
For me it’s not just the cinematography, the creativity and the technology that goes into making documentaries like Blue Planet II that fascinates me, it’s that it makes me proud that my UK license-fee money is going towards such amazing public education programs and helps support vital scientific research. If you watch the 15-minute snippet at the end of each Planet Earth/Frozen Planet/Human Planet/Blue Planet episode, it will easily dawn on you that film-making and scientific research are working hand-in-hand (one example here).
In true teaching fashion, the series inspired teachers to produce a range of resources that could be used with the documentary. When a documentary makes you say: “I so could use that in a lesson!” then I’ll guarantee you a teacher out there has already made a resource or two to go with it. And if you are lucky they might have put it on a resource sharing website like TES. Indeed, if the production is big enough they may have their own educational material on their official website.
So next time you get that feeling of using some popular media, especially one of the magnitude and educational potential as Blue Planet II, then check out a resource-sharing website and the program’s official website. It’s not cheating, it’s common sense. 😉
My eldest has been enjoying watching Blue Planet II (except today where he wanted to watch “Jack Skellington” (Nightmare Before Christmas) instead, then threw a tantrum when he changed his mind after the movie ended!). So while my parents were over from Ol’ Blighty we all decided to visit the Sea Life Center at the Mall of America (or the “real Blue Planet” as Theo described it!)
The highlight for me in particular was exhibition about turtles. There were plenty of interactive features including a digital table where you had to clear the beach of litter before the baby turtles made their rush to the sea after hatching.
Blue Planet II (especially the episode which talked about plastic pollution in the oceans), this exhibition and numerous articles about plastic that I have read recently have caused me to believe that plastic waste is now a threat to the natural environment (and therefore by extension, human health) on par with climate change. I came to this conclusion myself before stumbling upon this Guardian article pondering the same thing. I’ve long been someone who has tried to limit my use of disposable plastic, but now I feel tarnished by society’s dependent binge on the stuff, as marvelous of a material it is. A bit like that really grotty sluggish and often guilty feeling you get in your joints, bones and stomach after binging on junk food on the odd occasion. Since plastic is a derivative of oil – once again it seems it is our addiction of the use of fossil fuels that is the source of the problem. Fighting the plastic problem is going to be as big of a challenge as fighting climate change, IMHO.
Only last month China announced that it is going to stop taking the western world’s waste. It’s incredible that we produce so much of it, and have so little facility to recycle and manage it that we had to ship most of it off to China… but not anymore! This instantly caused alarm and problems both in the UK and the US. While people ‘boo-hoo’ at violin stories on programs like Blue Planet II and then mostly forget about it when the TV turns off, then this smack of realism which will start impacting the average household will hopefully give governments and members of the public the impetus to take it seriously. Only today, the Prime Minister has promised to deal with ‘avoidable’ plastic waste for good by 2042 (but the problem exists today and what exactly is meant by ‘avoidable’?)
I am hopeful however. Unlike climate change and the greenhouse gases that cause it, plastic is a very tangible and visible problem. So it is less deniable and has more of an obvious impact. Also, I know many people of various age groups trying to address this, whether it is scientists conducting research, friends or ex-students studying environmental issues, educators raising awareness. We are all responsible for this problem since we all consume and dispose, but it is also easy to for the average person to address. Other than religiously abide by the five R’s, if you want to be more active (and/or are an educator,) here’s a couple of ideas I have come across:
Litterati is a community-based initiative where participants can help track (and if they choose pick-up) litter as they go about their daily business. Going to the website allows you to look at plotted geotags of people’s litter spotting/picking, giving some rather cool (but scary) GIS maps.
This is a good news article which gives you more background about the guy who set up Litterati and what his motivations are.
If you teach at a school near a US coastline (lake, sea or ocean), and need some fieldwork ideas, then NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring Kit has everything you need. I participated in a webcast with a project leader and was inspired (although I was personally deflated that I can’t use it to it’s full potential in the UK!) However, there is plenty in there if you teach anything about waste and pollution, particularly on the marine environment. Although a lot of work, thought and passion has gone into producing the kit, it’s free to download! Also, I strongly urge my US colleagues to have a good look at the ‘Learn’ section of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries website.
To finish off, I’d like to end on something a little quirky. All us teachers should be teachers of numeracy and literacy, right? Well, I found this on YouTube, and I thought it was wonderful! If you have a spare half-hour, it’s worth sitting through with a couple of cups of tea! 🙂
English teachers! See more of Anna’s videos at her YouTube channel!
After-thought: A worth-while note to end on regarding Blue Planet II and similar series. There have been a couple of sensationalist ‘storm-in-a-tea-cup’ stories regarding claims that some of the footage was not authentic. This led to a very small number of people being turned off from the program, but worse, an even smaller number trolling discussion groups about it. Hopefully this explanation of why some small snippets of footage are filmed in controlled conditions will appease those disgruntled.
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