[Coral-List] Education and Hollywood

cindy177 at charter.net cindy177 at charter.net
Mon Mar 13 19:53:34 EST 2006

As a scientific illustrator and writer backgrounds in earth/marine science and education, I am involved in the development of science educational materials for K-12-college students and the lay public (geology and coral reef ecology). 

In education we talk about different kinds of learning styles, and the need to present subject matter in as many ways as possible in order to reach all types of learners. Educating us (the public) about coral reef decline or any other important issue needs as many approaches as possible: Inundate us with entertaining/educational movies and TV programs, colorful books and articles in print - even video games; integrate the subject matter all through the K-12 curriculum (and mandate it as part of the national educational standards), expand outreach activities - and cultivate supportive public policy makers. 

As an example of what can be done in schools, current educational reform encourages "authentic" (real life) learning and assessment using multidisciplinary, problem-based approaches. Coral reef issues offer perfect opportunities for such learning. 

In 1999, I wrote, illustrated, and published GROUPER MOON - a children's science adventure for use in the classroom - fiction, with accurate science that addresses the problems of over-fishing and coral reef decline. My approach to the story was to create a lovable fish character  (Cooper the Grouper) - one with whom kids could relate and want to take care of (who could not love a Nassau grouper?) - but through the boy character, the story also addresses human concerns of being able "to have our fish and eat it, too." Stan Waterman wrote the foreword. (For more details, see www.aureliapress.com or amazon.com)

My plan was to have teachers field test the book in their classrooms to see how it might work with the curriculum; next, use their feedback to develop formal lesson plans/activity guides and assessments to go with the book; then tweak and reprint the book, if necessary - and, finally, market it as a package. Soon after the book was printed, family matters sidetracked me for several years, so I am just now in the curriculum development stage. (I do this in my spare time between contracts.) 

Teacher and student response to the book has been very positive. Even without any current marketing, orders for classroom sets of books stagger in. Occasionally I am surprised by a package of art and letters from a classroom of kids who ask "is it really true?" and how they think the story should be made into a movie (really!) - actually, adult readers have said the same thing, but I've never done a screenplay before. But if Hollywood were to get involved with making ANY kind of coral reef movie, how about doing so with plans to develop educational materials to go with it? (BTW, are there currently materials to use with the IMAX production?)

There is already a lot of good stuff out there, but where is it all, and how can we avoid unnecessary duplication? I would suggest organizing a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to establish specific goals for public education. Take an inventory of what is already being done, who is doing it, and decide how these isolated projects can fit into a collective effort - then figure out where the holes are, and go from there. 

Please don't hesitate to let me know how I can help.

Best regards, 
Cindy Shaw

177 Kranichwood Street
Richland, WA 99352
509 627 3839 phone
509 627 0703 fax
cindyshaw177 at hotmail.com


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