In stark contrast
to the Royal Park group's initial response, these children appeared very excited
to be doing something on the environment - even before they knew it was a video
activity - and gave a very enthusiastic response when asked if they found work
on the environment to be interesting. They had studied the environment in school
previously, mostly in relation to litter. They were aware of problems such as
pollution, and the advantages of recycling, but did not seem to know about acid
rain, or the ozone layer.
Asked for a definition
of the environment, Celie suggested that it is 'everything', 'everything around
us'. As for whether they were worried about environmental problems, the answer
was generally no. Asked what they would do when they're older if the problems
have got worse: 'Then we'll go somewhere else'.
This group approached
even the first week's 'practice' video presentation with some enterprise; for
example, when invited to talk spontaneously on their chosen subjects, they decided
that the proper way to do it was to write scripts. They consequently
all sat down and started writing. In addition, most of them chose to talk about
things which were related to the environment even though they had not particularly
been asked to - Mariam on her favourite tulips, Vicky on recycling, Deneika on
flowers, and Celie spoke about animals, 'particularly the animals in the sea who
get polluted from the oil spills, like seals and sea birds', and 'endangered animals
like tigers, polar bears, gorillas, and pandas'.
In the second week,
the children produced a substantial amount of material around the school. Being
aged only seven and eight seemed to make them, if anything, less reticent about
talking at length to the camera. This also meant, however, that they were less
good at keeping quiet when not on camera (at one memorable point, Josiah,
who was operating the camera, yelled into the microphone 'I want to go to the
toilet', and ran off). The children were also able to interview each other on
In the remaining
four weeks, whilst the appeal of running around and in particular, for this group,
dancing (including some imitation of rather thrusting dances from Top of the
Pops) remained strong, the children kept to an environment-related agenda
with little need for reminders. Indeed, they produced more unprompted surprises
than most groups, as seen in Deneika's enthusiasm for Africa, coupled with an
awareness of racism in Britain, and Vicky and Mariam's ability to talk about almost
anything at some length. Significantly, without being told to, the children performed
for the camera in a way which anticipated an audience of others, asking the 'viewers'
rhetorical questions, wishing them well, and signposting their presentations (almost
all of which were prefaced with 'Hello, my name is ... and I am going to be talking
about ...', and closed with 'And that is the end of my story'). They also captured
interesting visual material on tape, such as a broad range of scenery, movement,
stepping into shot, their ubiquitous dancing, and minor gymnastics. The children
also seemed aware of the opportunity for individual expression, so that, for example,
when one child was suggesting words to Josiah, Celie hissed 'Don't tell
him what to say' - not to deny Josiah assistance, but in favour of letting him
express things himself.
The following exchange,
from the final week where the children interviewed each other on camera, shows
how the children had - on the whole - remained focused upon the aims of
have you been doing in this project?
have been talking about the environment, and talking about litter, and talking
about rubbish, and talking about grass, and everything.
you enjoy filming?
I did actually, I enjoyed filming and I enjoyed doing the talking and that.
you enjoy talking about the environment?
I did. But I still wanted to talk about dancing.
Mariam, a working-class
Black girl aged seven, was able to speak at particular length to the camera, and
rather than being repetitive or with little point, her utterances were often surprisingly
complex. In the following example, Mariam speaks of the excitement and variety
of environmental video work with an enthusiasm and scope which threatens to reach
beyond her basic language ability, and which was accompanied by many expressive
bits did you find interesting?
interesting thing of filming is you can talk about something, and talk about flowers,
and roads, and playground, and slide, and some environment work, about trees:
we talk about loads of things. Maybe you could, if you have camera, you could
film, your friend could film you or you could film yourself; it is very lovely,
and I mean it is very lovely, because if you look out for anyplace or playground,
you see loads of things you could do with environment work. Everywhere you go
you can see something that you do about the environment. And I really mean
it. Because if you see out the schools, or you go to buy something, the environment
is there. That's the end of my story.
The ideas about
the 'everywhereness' of the environment at the heart of this speech are ones which
Mariam has thought of and developed herself, as far as can be gathered, and they
are expressed in her own terms. Whilst not conforming to the highest adult standards
of clear presentation, her speech reflects an environmental awareness and enthusiasm
which was not so evident in most of the other, older children in this study.
This group were
particularly enthusiastic about 'the environment', as an abstract term, when the
topic was first mentioned to them - going so far as to cheer 'hurray!' and show
tangible excitement. The video-making process did not show this passionate response
to be false, exactly, but did reveal that the zeal related to the term 'the environment'
was, to an extent, superficial. Concern about specific issues - notably litter,
pollution and wildlife - seemed real enough, but generally did not appear to have
extended to broader issues, or a determination necessarily to do anything about
the problems. Given the children's age, however, this lack of generalisation may
be entirely natural, and their ability to interpret 'environment' in varied ways
for the video production was impressive.
concern for the environment was demonstrated by each of the children. Mariam,
in particular, whose background was no different to the other children, showed
an awareness of the environment which seemed to have been enhanced by the video
project, such that she could produce quite eloquent statements on the subject
by the final week. In all, the quality of the video work produced by these seven
year olds in a disadvantaged school was notably high.