This year's Classroom in the Wild: Chesapeake Bay really put the students to the test. Strong winds, freezing temperatures and icy rain did not stop the class of 14 from capturing beautiful footage of the region. Every day, the group of undergraduate, graduates and non-AU students showed their enthusiasm and motivation to learn and help each other in the field.
SOC and MFA alums Vanina Harel and Nick Zachar did a superb job of teaching the class.
I visited the class in the field and was very impressed by the students and by Vanina and Nick.
The class spent five days in the Bay region, staying at the Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area where they explored trails along the water and learned about the management of the area from Ranger Callahan.
They spent a day with Katey Nelson, the education manager at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), where they learned about birds of prey rehabilitation, aquaponics and the challenges currently facing the Bay and its migrating bird species.
On an extremely windy, frigid day at Blackwater National Refuge they captured footage of a wide variety of birds including bald eagles, migrating birds and waterfowl. They had the chance to interview Blackwater's staff members about the restoration methods they use to ensure that the area remains a key stopover for migrating birds and waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway, despite the challenges of erosion and sea level rise.
Back in the edit room at AU, the students all produced top-quality videos, websites and photo series that highlight the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay, the challenges it faces and how some fascinating people are dedicating their lives to protecting it.
The films will be screened at a special Center for Environmental Filmmaking event in the Doyle/ Forman Theater in the fall.
Finally, the students got some key career advice from David Ruck (AU alum and documentary filmmaker currently working at NOAA), Kelly Sweet (executive producer at Red Rock Film Kids focusing on nature and science content) and Ted Duvall (executive producer of Nat Geo WILD's number one series 'The Incredible Dr. Pol'). Sandy Cannon-Brown also visited the class and gave a fascinating presentation.
I'd like to commend each one of the students for their enthusiasm, creativity and hard work throughout the week: Liam DeFazio, Tom Edwards, May Evjen, Brooke Harowitz, Taylor Hartz, Katie Kirlin, Nicky Lehming, Kyle Mendelsohn, Elise Metcalf, Jack Reagan, Mike Rice, Hattie Wade, Jacob Wallace, and Jamie Young. Their commitment to the craft and to fostering a positive learning environment, despite the freezing and brutal weather, was inspiring.
The feedback from the students was very positive. Brooke wrote that it was "one of the best experiences of my life." Taylor wrote that, "I will highly recommend this course to all my classmates." And Mike wrote, "This class is perfect."
In addition to Vanina and Nick, I want to thank all my SOC colleagues who do so much to support Classroom in the Wild, including Jeff Rutenbeck, Brigid Maher, Jean McGee, Geoff Turner, Jeffrey Madison, John Zollinger, Tia Sumler, George Marshall, Laura Murray, Melanie Werner, Christine Frezek, Melanie Glover, and Tara Flakker. Thank you all!