Wild & Scenic promotes hands-on learning in schools | TheUnion.com

Wild & Scenic promotes hands-on learning in schools

Submitted by Lori Spencer of Nevada City School of the Arts.

As local schools increase their involvement and connection with hands-on learning and field-work projects, student participation in the Wild & Scenic Film Festival has grown. So much so, the 11th annual environmental film festival has added an extra day to accommodate the demand.

“It’s the first time we’ve had three sessions in Grass Valley,” said Shana Maziarz, creative director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. “1,200 kids participated last year and filled up the three days, so we added another day. It’s an exciting big development and we’ve had more outreach to kids.”

Lyman Gilmore School, Yuba River Charter School, Deer Creek Elementary, Grass Valley Charter School, Nevada City School of the Arts, and Forest Charter School are attending the festival this year, which offers a programs for kindergarten through third graders about wildlife and another for fourth to eighth graders about climate change and youth activism, coordinating with the festival’s theme this year of climate change.

“We are looking at change-makers, who are people providing solutions for a more livable future and the role that kids play in that as young activists,” Maziarz said.

Wild and Scenic worked with Lyman Gilmore to film a water quality testing project, which will be entered into the festival if completed in time.

“We are taking the technology we have, working with community groups, doing some footage and filmmaking with the kids and teaching real-life skills,” said Lyman Gilmore Teacher Doug Harmon.

Harmon took students to do a salmon tour at the University of California, Davis campus in Smartsville to learn about salmon, life cycles and stream health.

Students also worked with the Sierra Streams Institute, the Tribute Trail in Nevada City, and went hiking in Pioneer Park, with such field trips enhancing skills for students, Harmon said.

“There’s importance of having kids out in the field getting hands-on experience and writing,” Harmon said. “There’s an artistic part of putting together a movie, narration, and story-boarding. Kids are working with technology and not only learning science, but how to use the cameras and take that back into the classroom to go through the editing process and putting the whole thing together. Those are essential skills and when kids go onto high school and college, those are the skills that will make a difference getting good jobs.”

Harmon added a focus of the film festival is giving children an opportunity to showcase their work.

“The potential for 30 kids in this class to have their work viewed by 1,000, 1,500 people is really powerful,” Harmon said. “For any kid to see their work displayed and inspire or get people to think is an important thing.”

Grass Valley Charter teacher Merry Byles-Daly said hands-on learning is invaluable in engaging students.

“With project-based learning, the level of engagement is so strong,” Byles-Daly said. “Learning about the community builds character and engages students in projects we use to think critically about the world.”

Students from Grass Valley Charter said they were excited about the field trips and hands-on learning they were involved in, like the Save Our Parks film that was made when students went to Sacramento to advocate for state parks when South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park were at risk of closure.

“We’ve had lots of field trips and we wouldn’t have gotten this experience if we hadn’t gone there ourselves,” said sixth-grader Lila Hunter. “You can’t get that from just reading about it.”

Sixth-grader Devin Anderson agreed the experiences cannot be found in a textbook.

“You think about it less when you just read about it, as opposed to going there and you see the big raging turquoise water and it sticks with you,” Anderson said.

Byles-Daly said the parks have been helpful in teaching students about nature.

“We use our state parks on a really regular basis to go for classroom experiences,” Byles-Daly said. “The science lessons allow kids to get in touch with natural worlds and having the ability to have access to parks is important.”

Byles-Daly said the field trips also teach skills which help encourage students in the classroom.

“A lot of times we use field work as metaphor,” said Byles-Daly. “If they’re hiking, getting to top of Mount Judah, the struggle teaches perseverance and to keep going and having that opportunity in the field so when in the classroom if a student says ‘I can’t do it,’ I say ‘I know you can do this writing assignment, remember when you climbed that mountain?’ And gently push them to succeed.”

The students said the trip showed them the value of life outside of technology.

“I normally dislike hiking, but climbing with friends made me not just want to sit around with electronics. You can go out and explore the world,” said fifth grader Bianca Baron.

Nevada City School of the Arts is also attending the festival and has worked on various projects, including salmon and stream restoration with the South Yuba River Citizens League. “We’ve been working a lot with SYRCL and stream restoration and water quality and looking at salmon migration and recently came back with a salmon walk,” Spencer said. “It ties in with what the film festival does in trying to get citizen science out there in the public.”

Spencer said the festival connects to what the students are involved with in school.

“It’s something we like to do every year because it supports what we do with our school. We have a watershed academy for fourth and fifth grade,” Spencer said. “It’s another way to tie in the sciences with what we do here with school and the larger community as well.”

Spencer said the importance of the field work helps motivate students to connect the classroom environment with the outside world.

The festival is taking place at the Center for the Arts Friday and Saturday, the Del Oro Wednesday and Thursday morning and Thursday night and the rest of the venues are taking place in Nevada City Friday night through Sunday.

“It’s a really great way for kids to get turned onto environmental issues,” Maziarz said.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230.

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