The good people here at Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! keep busy schedules. Any given week, there are field days to host, webinars to produce, videos to film, songs to compose, schoolchildren to teach, research trips to be carried out, stacks of paperwork to complete, and plenty of odd jobs on the side. This last week, though, the ILF/WR! team members were faced with a challenge unlike any they had encountered before.
They had to become seventh-graders.
The challenge stems from a Water Rocks! video currently in the works. It’s a public service announcement about watersheds, and it’s set at a middle-school science fair, with dioramas and other projects on display. So filmmaker Andrew Bentler — director of this new video as well as of WR!’s successful “What’s In Your Water?” series — enlisted some of the ILF/WR! team to channel their inner seventh-graders and make the projects themselves.
(And yes, in case you were wondering: I was exempted from the whole challenge, probably by virtue of being a new-on-the-job program assistant rather than a team member of long standing. That’s why I’m the one writing this.)
When I spoke to project evaluator and educator Nathan Stevenson about the challenge on Thursday, he was completing a presentation about the solar system, with painted foam models of the planets mounted on corrugated display board and annotated in classic science fair fashion.
“I’m going to include a writeup about each of the planets, and about how Pluto gets no respect,” Stevenson explained. “People just don’t understand Pluto.”
Events coordinator Liz Juchems contributed a diorama of an Iowa wetland biome, complete with mosses (filling in for wetland plant life, naturally) and model animals, including a snake, an owl, and multiple otters and deer.
“My favorite part of constructing my science fair project was remembering all the school and 4-H projects I had constructed over the years,” Juchems commented. “[The diorama] brought me back to middle school and the fun I had with my friends creating projects for school and 4-H.”
Assistant program manager and lab manager Ann Staudt contributed two projects, including the pivotal “We All Live in a Watershed” display on which the video focuses.
“Over the past two years, I’ve been a judge at several science fairs,” Staudt noted, “so I was able to base [the displays] on some outstanding middle-school science projects I’ve seen. Just saying.”
When the projects were set up for filming, director Bentler expressed satisfaction on how the challenge had turned out.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could be 7th graders for a living?” he said.
The film shoot took place on Friday, and the video’s now in post-production. Look for it among the Water Rocks! videos in the upcoming months.
And be sure to notice all the great pseudo-seventh-grade-science-projects in the background.
- Alex Kirstukas