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GreenScreens—Connecting Students with the Environment

Middle School | 5 comments

Submitted by Erica Johnson, West Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and Susan Tate, Whitehall Middle School

Eighth grade students at Whitehall Middle School learn about the environmental history of White Lake as well as ongoing threats to the Great Lakes in Susan Tate’s Earth Science class. Through field trips, community inventories, mapping exercises and research on restoration work conducted by community activists and organizations, students learn more about the issues that affect their watershed, as well as other communities within Michigan. Armed with this new knowledge, students create films to explore these issues in depth and also plan a film festival called GreenScreens. The approach changes each year as new information and new opportunities come to bear.


  1. Ethan Lowenstein

    I really love all that you have done here! During your presentation today, you talked about just releasing control. So simple, and so important! Did it take some time for teachers to trust in the process? Was the culture of the school always student-centered in this way, or did the project help to move the needle more toward student voice and choice? Thanks for all your work!! So inspiring!

    • Susan Tate

      Hi Ethan. Thank you for your question. It was definitely a learning curve to release control of the project to our students. I continually reminded myself (and other teachers) that “you don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great.” Luckily, we have administrators who see the value in supporting PBL and all of its “messiness”.

  2. Lisa Voelker

    This is a great idea – thanks for highlighting the student voice/choice piece in your presentation. This seems like you had a lot of engaged students!

  3. Jacinda Bowman

    This is such a cool project! I can really see some of my middle schoolers loving making documentaries and putting together a film festival! Do you have any resources that you’d be willing to share? I’m specifically interested in how you get students familiar with the genre of documentary and how you support them in developing their film narratives.

  4. Amy Clarice

    I think this film festival idea is brilliant! I appreciate the way you leveraged the tools you mentioned, seems meaningful for skill development that the students learned how to do the editing and citation. It would be cool to do a collaborative festival like this in the future, highlighting projects from across the state!


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