productive kids

i don’t know how you learned about it, but louie the lightning bug gets all the credit for introducing me to energy conservation. with his little lightbulb bum buzzing around the house reminding you to switch off the lights and turn off the tv, you’d never want to let him down.

while the message stays the same, and is arguably more urgent now as the light on global consciousness has flicked on, the way we engage one another with issues of sustainable consumption has changed somewhat.

i’ve just finished a week of work with the education team at the Pacific Cinematheque, facilitating an intensive video production workshop with a neat group of high school kids. young enough to look up to me, but old enough not to look down on them.

in teams of 5, they were tasked with creating a 2 minute video on sustainable consumption. “you have never made a movie before, never storyboarded frames, never touched a video camera, editing software, sound design, and all the rest. go!

navigating through five days of challenges, and new information, the end result was five short films. educational, comedic, and creative in their quest to delve further into Louie Lightning’s message from the early 90s. Buy local food, conserve water and energy, reduce plastic waste, and seek better alternatives.

education through production.

more and more it becomes clear to me that the best way to teach someone something is to have them do it themselves. my friend jenn calls this ‘experiential learning’. over the last few months i’ve had the opportunity to present media education workshops on the effects of Advertising and Consumer Culture in grade 12 classrooms across the lower mainland through my position as outreach coordinator in the school of communication at SFU, and often i left the classrooms feeling as though maybe it was me that learned the most at the end of the 75 minute workshop – rather than the students themselves. (Oh, the things I now know about public speaking, audience engagement, and the perkiness of 17 year olds at 8:35am!) I can tell you for sure, that the most-enjoyed part of the workshops was the 10 minutes set aside for group activities. It was probably my favourite part too.

So, while the kids this week could have scored 99% on a quiz about sustainability, the opportunity to share that knowledge with others through collaboration, teamwork, creativity, and production deserves just as strong of recognition in the education system. This is something the Education program with the Cinematheque is trying to realize, and they’re not alone.

The Museum of Vancouver recently facilitated the first Youth Council project in the MOV’s +100 year history. A team of 11 high school students gathered together from around Metro Vancouver over a period of 10 weeks and organized themselves into curators, programmers, and multimedia producers. The culminating exhibit was a choice to bring the d-i-y street culture of vancouver to the museum, and to bring the museum outside of its own walls into the public eye. Taking an environmental spin on yarnbombing, and a cultural cue from the likes of Banksy and other street artists, the youth council transformed plastic shopping bags into a gigantic 25-foot knitted scarf and used it to ‘bomb’ the iconic MOV crab statue – true renegade style.

Allowing these guys full creative license to create their own exhibit, and program an opening night reception full with slam poets and musicians all representing their own ‘concrete expression’ shows highlights the MOV as a progressive cultural place that is willing to extend the conversation about vancouver far beyond its own institutional walls. In this way, it also acts as a bridge for otherwise disconnected communities within the city, because who knows where the Youth Council will take this next? Maybe here?

While I’m not positive that our technology-driven, info&media-saturated landscape is always the best for us, i do think it’s important to have the tools and understanding with which to make sense of it. For example, who would have thought the last federal election could be so enlightening if not for the awesometastic tech skills of these guys? If you’re an awesome young person, or know of any awesome young people, here are a couple more opportunities for them to be media saavy productive kids: Reel Youth & G.I.F.T.S.


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