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Inspiring Students Through Great Films
Today’s world is full of pessimism and cynicism, and our students are bombarded with discouraging messages about the future of the planet. Is there any antidote to such poison?
Yes, there is. We call it “inspiration.”
The word comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breathe into.” Let’s think for a moment about how inspiration works. There are two parts to inspiration. First, we are stimulated by something and second to do something.
That stimulation, whatever it may be, evokes a set of feelings — of being uplifted, of increased energy, confidence, and sense of possibilities. We then use those feelings to do something — to start a new project or to recommit to a difficult task.
Perhaps the most marvelous thing about inspiration is that it is contagious — it can be spread from person to person, from generation to generation.
So, where can we find such a precious substance, and how do we spread it?
I have found an endless supply of enduring inspiration in the adventures of others. By “adventure” I mean what one writer described perfectly as “a mixture of spirit and deed.”
Most all of my storytelling in books and on film has chronicled the adventures of people with great spirit, who accomplished important deeds … people who walked where no one had walked, saw what no one had seen, or thought what no one had thought (or thought possible).
For close to 10 years, BioInteractive has been producing short films for the classroom to engage students in learning about some of these scientists’ work and their discoveries. We are now launching a new section of the website that will include feature-length science films to be enjoyed out of the classroom — Films to Inspire. The films we have chosen offer glimpses into the hearts and lives of scientists (and aspiring scientists) and reveal their passions, struggles, setbacks, and the price many willingly pay to pursue their dreams and what they love.
These are all great stories produced by outstanding filmmakers and storytellers; they are meant to be enjoyed as any other movie. We hope that your students, whatever their passions and interests, will glean inspiration and insight from them.
We would love to hear any reactions, and we are happy to receive suggestions for other films to be added to the collection.
Sean B. Carroll is Balo-Simon Professor and Endowed Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland. He is also Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dr. Carroll was an HHMI investigator from 1990 to 2010. In September 2010, he became vice president for science education at HHMI.
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Kim Parfitt describes two activities (now merged into the activity “Scientific Inquiry and Data Analysis Using WildCam Gorongosa”) associated with the WildCam Gorongosa project. She also discusses a short film on lion populations in Gorongosa that she uses to introduce the topic.