This is a post by JBFC Education Assistant Karolina Manko
The JBFC’s Focus on Nature* initiative is breaking ground in helping students and educators integrate science, media, and storytelling. Last week, to celebrate the launch of two new Focus on Nature initiatives, award-winning filmmaker Andy Young talked with a theater full of elementary school students about his career as a wildlife filmmaker. Andy and his wife, Susan Todd, are Archipelago Films, whose work around the world has earned them Emmy Awards, Sundance Film Festival awards, and an Academy Award nomination.
With footage starring bears, bats, chimpanzees, lemurs, and salmon, Andy lit up the room with tales of his travels. The third graders from the Haldane School in Cold Spring and fourth graders from Casimir Pulaski in Yonkers were rapt by the images and anecdotes of how Andy got each shot. It didn’t take long for the questions to start rolling. Many children eagerly asked about the animals he’s encountered, what kind of equipment he uses, and how they can participate as filmmakers and backyard scientists. Andy encouraged the children to stay curious telling them that “it’s great to go to places like Madagascar or Alaska but there are pretty amazing things right here in our own backyards,” as his presentation shifted to excerpts from a forthcoming feature length film, Pondemonium, which will explore the wilds of the wetlands as never seen before.
The students excitedly shared the projects they’ll create in their classrooms as part of Focus on Nature. From critter cams and butterfly life-cycles, to vegetables in their own Garden Club, Focus on Nature is getting students around the region engaged with the natural world.
Check out Andy’s quirky YouTube drama about the beavers that have made their lodge on the pond on his property: Tales from the Beaver Lodge:
In addition to all of the classroom instruction Focus on Nature entails, it is also coupled with an annual film series that takes place during September and October right here at the JBFC theater. Kids, parents, and educators are welcome to come experience some great wildlife films. The entire Focus on Nature program is designed to encourage curiosity and creativity, to foster empathy, and to bridge the science of nature with the art of storytelling. Stay tuned for updates on our Critter Cams, Butterfly Life Cycle projects, Garden Club news, and Seasonal Scientist tales!
*Focus on Nature film and education programs are made possible by generous support from The Secunda Family Foundation, the Hoch Family and van Hengel Family Fund, Janet Maslin and Ben Cheever, and the Lucille and Paul Maslin Foundation.
Photos: Aaron Mace