Saw the latest episode of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It on BBC3 yesterday evening and was very, very impressed. The programme exemplified a lot of the methodology that we use in the Digital Explorer expeditions and also gave me some ideas about how to improve for the next one.
The premise of the series is to create a connection between the meat that we eat and the process of rearing and killing animals, especially in processed forms such as burgers, sausages, etc. The importance of making empathetic connections is ever more urgent. Young people need to learn about the impact of their choices, especially when they are not immediately obvious. It would be great to take every secondary pupil to an abattoir or an industrial chicken farm, so that they could see the process with their own eyes. This probably won’t happen, but at least now we have a virtual trip that can be used in classrooms via the iplayer for weeks / years (?) to come (please BBC keep it up there).
So what can we learn as educators looking to make video for the classroom?
Feature pupil voice… a lot
This seems pretty obvious and is easy to do with your class. For me some of the best bits last night were characters like Phoebe or Luke speaking straight to camera on location about their experiences. These vox pop were sprinkled with cutaways of what they were talking about – castrating piglets has to be seen to be believed.
Keep it chunky
The programme was nicely segmented with very focused sections on different tasks. So we would have 5 minutes on piglet castration and discussion, 5 minutes of pig slaughter at the abattoir, and another 5 on all the wonderful ingredients that make a value sausage. Having short chunks of film makes it easier to use in the classroom, rather than a straight 30 minute episode.
Make it emotional
If you are looking to spark discussion or interest, emotional engagement really helps to promote empathy. The nature of this topic makes it quite easy, as does the inner working of the slaughterhouse, but there are also some nice experiential exercises. Three of the volunteers involved are weighed to see how big their pen would be if they were piglets. They are then made to crawl around a pen that size for 3 minutes. I can see this kind of exercise being copied in the classroom and being very effective.
Characters drive the story
The young people are well chosen and introduced as individuals with a back story as well. I think that this is something that we can develop more on Digital Explorer expeditions. It would be easier to do with a smaller group. The group size of six used in the programme works really well. If you are making films with a class some of the pupils will be better in front of camera, some will be better at shooting video and some better at directing. Use this diversity of talent.
Overall, well done to BBC3. A nice piece of educational film, all that’s needed now is to have it properly packaged and distributed to schools.