Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Logical Conclusion

Last week saw the launch of the third and final film in the “think” trilogy. This time the team concentrated on energy consumption and climate change and the film was titled “EcoLogic”.

A lightbulb moment

Whereas in previous films, the first about food and farming and the second looking at marine conservation, I felt perfectly within my comfort zone with the subject, this time I was not the lead in script development. The strong partnership between East Devon District Council and Exmouth Community College was pivotal in providing the financial backing for the project and the brains of the operation came in the form of Exmouth’s Head of Geography, Dan Eynon.

In case his students read this column, or I make him blush, I will hold back on the eulogy this chap deserves. However, I will go so far as to say few other teachers would have put themselves out to the same extent or done so much to make the project a success than Dan.

The preamble before the film screening put the project in context with regard to the Geography curriculum; most importantly the following passage from the Geography curriculum was quoted, and I would like to share it with you now:

Geography inspires pupils to become global citizens by exploring their own place in the world, their values and their responsibilities to other people, to the environment and to the sustainability of the planet.

This short summary did more to sum up the ambitions and aims of this film, and the previous two, than I could have hoped for. It also leaves me baffled as to why such a pivotal and forward-looking subject is not a compulsory part of a student’s timetable.

None of the films we have made to date have tried to tell young people what to do, or what to think. EcoLogic is no exception. The issues of climate change, energy consumption and sustainability are explored by three student presenters and local case studies used to illustrate some possible solutions to the pressures we are facing. So often the messages given about environmental issues are doom-laden and preachy. By putting the students in the driving seat, EcoLogic aimed to make a serious subject inspiring and enlightening to the intended audience.
Of course, just because the film was made primarily for teenagers, doesn’t mean it has no impact for other people. Think Deep, a recent Green Apple Award-winner for Environmental Best Practice, was shown by the Exmouth Transition Towns movement to an adult audience and everyone seemed fittingly pleased with its content and style of production. I hope EcoLogic will have the same impact.

Most importantly the film does not try to be “yoof”. You know, and I shudder to use the word as it is now something of an oxymoron, “trendy”. The shooting style is stright documentary, the production score so middle of the road as to have cats eyes. There’s no machine gun edits or strobing effects and thank goodness, no skinny jeans or expressive eye make up. Its a grown up film that just happens to be fronted by young people.

Now we have given the film its premier at the Community College there are a few loose ends to tie-up before the master copy is duplicated and distributed, with this one heading to all Secondary Schools in the South West of England. Taking messages of environmentalism here in East Devon, all over the region.

Its a small drop in a massive ocean, but if it has an impact for a handful of students within its shelf-life, I feel it will be a positive success. There’s no single means of appealing to everyone, no magic silver bullet, so this is one of many educational tools out there for teachers, interest groups and the world in general to dip into and use as they see fit. It will be available for free in hard copy to South West schools, and online for the rest of the world. Here’s hoping that a little bit of Exmouth common sense rubs off!

My favourite bit of the film comes at the end of a magical animation sequence, I’ll paraphrase as I don’t have the script here in front of me on my day off:

“We can either sit around and wait for the big people to make big decisions, or the billions of us can make simple small changes that add up to one MASSIVE change worldwide.”

Inspiring stuff.

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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


Seaside Treats

Last week I was stationed on the beach at Orcombe Point for the day, while classes from Withycombe Raleigh and Bassets Farm Primary Schools joined me for a super-quick exploration of the seashore.  During the course of a 20 minute workshop, I was not expecting anything particularly unusual to appear, but how wrong I was.


As an October introduction to coastal wildlife, we kept warmly to the strand line and looked for shells, after all, the myriad of different shells to be found on the beach all have clues to their ecology hidden amongst them. And its a lot more comfortable than standing in a rockpool all day in the late Autumn!


Quite a few shore crab shells were found, some cast skins and some dead and smelly crabs. But then someone handed me this handsome fellow – a large hermit crab cast: exceptional!


Tough-as-boots shore crabs will shed their shells which can persist in the immediate area for weeks in calm weather. However hermit crabs have a much more delicate shell and, because of this, are far less frequently seen as casts. The abdominal section of this cast was not present, this is far too flimsy to survive washing ashore. However the legs, armoured claws and  thorax carapace were all present and correct.


Spontaneity is everything when dealing with education in the natural world, no amount of planning would have prepared me for finding this species in the activity I was leading, but the group spent a valuable session comparing the two species of crab for similarities, differences and  discussions about crustaceans ensued.


We were even able to sit these shells alongside the stony excrescence of a barnacle and attempt to see connections between these two distant relatives!


The autumnal sunshine blazed through the day, making this one of the warmest beach visits I have carried out at any time in the year, perhaps it would have been bearable in the water after all?


If you have a spare hour or two this weekend, why not head down to the beach and explore the strandline for sea creatures? Every one of the 300 or so 6-10 year olds who joined me last week was thrilled to be out on the sand in the sun, and I know they could have stayed and played all day!



Eyes on the Estuary


As well as visiting the seafront beach, I would urge all of you to spend time admiring the view over the estuary in the next few months too. The brent geese are back and there’s plenty to look out for.


Local photographer Beryl Ladd sent me this photo of a dark-bellied brent goose on the estuary, which seems to have a set of rings. I will look into which organisation are running a brent goose ringing scheme and report back when I find out more.


Ringing is a means by which ornithologists can gather data about bird ecology and behaviour. Because all birds of the same species look largely identical to our eyes, giving an individual an identity can reveal an enormous amount about the bird and the species. Large birds, such as geese and swans can carry relatively large rings which are visible from distance with a good pair of binoculars. This means that identification can be made of individuals while they are alive and maps created, tracking their movement.


Smaller birds carry a tiny metal band on their legs with a serial number, which if found on a dead bird, should be reported to the British Trust for Ornithology, the organisation which administers UK bird ringing.


Statistics about length of life, distance travelled and even total distance travelled in a bird’s lifetime have been revealed thanks to the efforts of bird ringers around the world. For example, for many gardens in the region, their ‘resident’ garden blackbird may well be replaced by a European interloper this winter as our bird numbers are augmented by influxes of species from the continent.


More news to follow as I uncover it.



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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in Marine