Exploring students’ engagement with place-based environmental challenges through filmmaking: A case study from the Lens on Climate Change program

The Lens on Climate Change (LOCC) is an informal, place-based science program designed to engage middle and high school students from underserved groups in learning and communicating about impacts of climate change on their communities. This student-driven experience involves identifying a local environmental challenge, researching the topic, and creating a short film about it with the guidance of film and science mentors. The case study presented here provides an in-depth analysis of a small group of Native American high school students whose film depicts a strong connection to place and includes stories about their personal experiences of the impacts of drought on their community. LOCC’s focus on the communities where students live was maintained even when students participated in a workshop outside of their home communities. Even in this unique context for a place-based program, the students drew meaningful connections to home and to a critical environmental challenge that impacted their community through their films and filmmaking processes. Follow-up interviews with the students suggested that the LOCC program experience was transformative for them with regard to their personal actions around environmental challenges and their approaches to thinking and communicating about climate change. LOCC’s focus on place and storytelling through film helped students find greater personal meaning in the geoscience topics they were learning and may be a useful model for other education programs in geoscience. The alignment of LOCC with components of culturally responsive teaching and future directions for tailoring the program for Indigenous students are discussed.