How to get the creative juices flowing
If you’re interested in using documentary filmmaking as a way for students to explore science but are hitting some dead ends when it comes to deciding what to make a film about, you could make a shortlist of stories from one or a combination of these sources:
• Scimex (the Science Media Exchange) is an online news portal aimed primarily at helping journalists cover science. Scimex is a collaboration between the Australian Science Media Centre (AusSMC) and the Science Media Centre of New Zealand (SMCNZ).
• The Australian Science Media Centre publishes Fact Sheets & Briefing Notes. These Factsheets give brief, digestible summaries on new areas of emerging science when issues that have had little media attention are suddenly in the spotlight. Designed to give an overview rather than a comprehensive account of a topic, the Factsheets are also a pointer towards sources of authoritative scientific information. While SMC Factsheets tend to go into detail on a narrow topic, we also produce ‘briefing notes’ on broader subject areas like climate change, stem cells or animal research. These briefing notes are written for broadcasters and non-specialists, giving a rapidly digestible summary of controversial topics.
• ABC Science is the platform that holds all of ABC’s science content in one place. Discover the latest news, videos and podcasts by topic area, or by program.
• National Geographic has heaps of interactive video learning experiences easily searchable by topic.
• The TED Talks science collection includes playlists and currently 537 videos of Ted Talks covering science.
Making documentaries about citizen science
Citizen science is where individuals can participate in large scale scientific research projects run by universities and museums. The internet and mobile technology means we can record and contribute evidence that we find around our own neighbourhoods and environments, where scientists can’t be all the time. Some citizen science projects that you could take part in and make a film about your discovery and participation journey are:
• The Australian Museum Centre for Citizen Science has heaps of projects you can get involved with including FrogID, DigiVol, Australiasian Fishes, Streamwatch, Cockatoo Wingtags, Hollows as Homes and Solar-powered Ibis. Check out their website to find out more.
• CoastSnap beach monitoring with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
• Map and log fish species with RedMap
• National Geographic Society has heaps of ideas from searching space and classifying galaxies to observing plant life cycles.
• Or search hundreds of opportunities on the Australian Citizen Science Association’s Project Finder
Activity: What’s the story in your project?
This activity will differ a little depending on if the students have already done research or if they will be filming as they undertake their project. We’d recommend that students film as they are undertaking their project – that way they will be able to record their discoveries as they unfold. Here’s a suggested plan for the activity:
1. In your teams, brainstorm the following questions:
• What is the main question that we are tasked to answer?
• What are the steps we will take to answer that question? – Interviews? Research? Sub-questions? Experiments? (you can put them in a timeline)
• What do we know? And what information is already available? Is there any existing (archival) footage that you can use?
• What don’t we know? What can we test or investigate?
• What are the key events and people involved?
• Where do we think the biggest discoveries, challenges or conflicts will occur?
• What is our point of view, belief or opinion? What are the other points of views, beliefs and opinions? Who can you interview to show all sides of the story?
2. Ask the students to plot out the journey they will take in their project, highlighting the potential critical points in their storyline – i.e. what do viewers need to be aware of? Then section their journey into: 1. Beginning/the setup; 2. Middle/the conflict; and 3. End/the resolution. Suggest to the students that as they undertake their project that they may discover things that were unexpected and that may change their storyline which is totally okay!