On film

Ferry Beach Conference Center, Saco, Maine

The children’s program of the religious education conference continued this morning. Lisa and I are doing nature and ecology with rotating groups of children in grades 1-6.

This morning we had the grade 5-6 grade group for the entire morning. A film crew came to Ferry Beach today to film a short film to promote Unitarian Universalism. The film makers, David and Anne, felt that a key component of Unitarian Universalist religious education is our focus on Nature and respect for the interdependent web of all existence. They wanted to get some footage of children engaged in outdoors religious education, so they decided to film us doing religious education with the fifth and sixth graders.

Before the children arrived, I talked with David and Anne, and with one of the camera operators (also confusingly named David), about the kind of shots they were looking for. He wanted groups of children and adults close together, in a natural setting, looking at something together. Then I figured out how to adjust our lesson plan (we decided to use the same session plan as we used with the 3rd and 4th graders yesterday) so David could get the shots he was looking for.

All that was pretty straightforward. What really worried me was how the children would react with a camera looking over their shoulders all the time. When the children arrived, I started up my computer and showed them photographs I had taken of the Piping Plover sitting on her nest — I had promised a couple of days ago that I would do so.

We sat in a circle, and did everyone (including the film crew) introduced themselves. Then i reminded the children of the Piping Plover photos, and showed them my small video camera. I was sitting next to David with his big video camera, and we compared the two cameras. I told the children that I like to use my camera to help me observe and remember what I see in Nature. Then David talked about his camera, and the kinds of documentary work he does with it. These introductions allowed the children to become somewhat accustomed to the film crew.

We moved into the same basic lesson that we had done with the 3rd and 4th graders yesterday (“secret agents” and collecting things on the beach), and I set things up so that David got some great shots of children crouched on beach sand sorting through different kinds of seaweed. The film makers needed to do interviews with a couple of children individually, so to accommodate that, Lisa and I took the rest of the children down the road to see where the house had washed into the ocean last winter. I hadn’t really planned for these interviews, and this part of the session didn’t go as well as the “secret agent” activity.

After the snack break, the film crew was pretty much done. We all sat in a circle, and we went around the circle, allowing each child some time to talk about how it felt to be filmed. Many of the children said it was “distracting.” One or two didn’t really notice a difference. Several of the children pointed out how many in the group were kind of acting for the camera.

Then I gave them a couple of choices for activities that they could do in the second half of the morning. Nearly all of them wanted to spend alone time in the woods (just as we did last year). So we did that to finish out the morning.

Overall, I felt this morning’s session went very well indeed. The film makers were a little distracting, but in spite of that I felt that the children learned a lot, and had fun besides.