LET’S TALK ABOUT WATER: FILM SCREENINGS AS AN ENTRE TO WATER SCIENCE
Properly handled, this simple format can be very effective. A film creates a context of subject and language for the discussion--it gets the audience and the panel on the same page. The moderators must actively manage the discussion, both challenging the panelists with follow up questions, asking questions to simplify the language the expert is using, and passing a question among panelists to bring out different points of view. The panelists are provided with the film in advance to view and, most importantly, meet the day before the event to discuss the film. This makes for a much more convivial discussion at the event. We have found that these discussions can easily be sustained for 90 to 120 minutes with active audience participation.
The event itself is typically held on a Saturday with a morning screening of the film. The audience is provided with index cards and pencils to write down questions they have about the film. A lunch is provided during which the questions are organized and used to initiate different discussion themes. The discussion begins with points raised by the movie (are these issues real? Do they apply here? What are the scientific, engineering, and policy solutions to these problems?) and then segues into a discussion about career opportunities in the water sector. Our past events at several university campuses have been successful in attracting large audiences and have been viewed positively by attendees.
This format has been applied at college campuses with a target audience of lower-level undergraduates, in several universities in the United States and Canada. Additionally, we have held public events (at the NY Public Library, concurrent with World Water Week) and have documented experiences for other educators and researchers who want to employ this format. CUAHSI has created best practice "tips," hosting guides documenting our experiences with individual films, and other information on our website.