Student videos offer a glimpse into climate change

March 29, 2019

A group of teens headed down to fish at a shady stream in the American Southwest. But in addition to rods and tackle, they also carried professional-grade video cameras, microphones, and recording equipment. Erik Morales, a student from Gadsden High School in Anthony, New Mexico, shared his story with the camera: “I used to go fishing all the time,” he said. “But things have changed over the past decade…there isn’t enough water to sustain, kind of, the amount of fish we used to catch.”

A Lens on Climate Change team films a segment on water in the West featuring an interview with Jeff Lukas, a scientist from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

In June, 15 middle and high school students from across southern Colorado and New Mexico journeyed to the NOAA-supported Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciencesoffsite link (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The students were there for a week-long program to explore the effects that environmental change has on their lives and in their communities. 

The Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) program, funded by the National Science Foundation's Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, allowed these students to take a deeper look at climate change topics and use their new knowledge to create short, educational movies. This group was from Upward Bound Math Science, a program that targets low-income students and those who may be the first in their families to attend college.

CIRES and Colorado Film School mentors worked with LOCC students throughout the week as they explored environmental issues through research and filmmaking. Students split themselves into teams based on common interests. Morales’ team formed from a group of outdoors enthusiasts; all four team members shared a love for outdoor recreation like hiking, camping, and fishing. 

With support from two graduate students, the team worked together to create a concept map and script for their film on the effects of climate change on recreational fishing. They interviewed Jeff Lukas, a researcher in CIRES’ Western Water Assessment program, and toured Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Bellvue-Watson Fish Hatchery to learn about sustainable fishing practices.

Over the course of the project, teachers and mentors observed their students expanding their horizons. “The project really demanded students to get out of their comfort zone,” a LOCC middle school teacher said. “They had to interview professionals and discuss with experts.” Patrick Chandler, a graduate student who supported the project, added, "The students quickly found a topic that they all truly cared about and were not afraid to bring their emotion and vulnerability into the film.”

To celebrate the students and their successful projects, the LOCC team held a public film screening attended by mentors, students, and community members. Film topics ranged from water quality in Flint, Michigan, to drought in the West. This program in Colorado was just the first stop for LOCC in 2018; afterward, the CIRES team traveled to Gunnison, Colorado, and Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

“LOCC is about giving middle and high school kids the tools to investigate climate change effects in their community and start dialogues about those effects,” said Erin Leckey, program manager of LOCC. “We hope that through making their films that kids learn to be change makers and build resilience for their communities.”

This story was originally published in the Fiscal Year 2018 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report