In the Know About H20

The Story of Stuff project team is known for their creativity and critical consumer and environmental activism in partnership with empowered marketer Free Range Studios. In 2010 they create an insightful and incisive movie titled, “The Story of Bottled Water.” Anne Leonard is an amiable media literacy tour guide, pointing out to viewers the foolish and nonsensical reasons why bottled water is so popular yet ultimately so wasteful. In just a little more than 8 minutes, Leonard delves fairly deep into the advertising techniques to create the need and perpetuate the demand for bottled water and the corporate advertising techniques to perpetuate the myth. Sadly, our notions of recycling aren’t exactly grounded in reality either. Most salient is that it answers the question: “Which is better for our bodies and environment: Tap water or bottled water?”

Loriana Romano from Canadian-based Teaching Rocks provides a media literacy worksheet to accompany “The Story of Bottled Water” that you can [download here]. It integrates Science, Geography (and Social Studies), and Media Literacy.

But there is a twist in the flow of information (and water) here.

What happens when a public health tragedy rises to the surface, as is the case with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? It’s enough to lose faith in the safety of tap water, isn’t it?  Corporate execs who bottle water are suddenly the rescuers of innocent victims. And the villains are now the corrupt politicians and city officials of Flint. There is no denying the the layers of socioeconomic and racial discrimination here. Fodder for discussion, indeed.

The following PBS News Hour video (Jan 2016) addresses the essential question, “What is the government’s responsibility when it comes to providing safe drinking water?”

You can download a curriculum guide to accompany this video by clicking here.

Exercise Your Visual Literacy Skills

Media literacy is key to health literacy. But what does media literacy look like in everyday life? Here is one simple yet elegant example of decoding symbols (logos) that we see nearly every day. The explanation underneath each logo is an excellent example of making explicit the intentional stylistic choices to convey meaning. It is a far cry from the conspiracy theory-saturated examples of “subliminal” advertising that were prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s. This infographic may inspire students to engage in their own graphic design (fine arts) in a more intentional, media-literate, way. Think beyond the curriculum boundaries and pair up with an Economics/Personal Finance teacher as part of a more strategic cross-curricular project. Add Photoshop and the creative possibilities are endless. (To coin a famous yet not-without-controvery slogan: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”)


Go ahead and bug me with The Good Stuff

Thank you, PBS Digital Studios, for reviving the 2013 (originally Google-funded) Internet program, The Good Stuff,” which launched new episodes as of May 2015. The YouTube video playlist ranges from the history (and health effects) of sleep, the future of food, history of robots, and the limits of our perception. My current favorite, however, is the episode titled, “Why You Should Eat Bugs.”  Not only is the video visually-stimulating (or for some, gross), but it is also filled with thoughtful and culturally-responsive information that get us thinking about the quality and quality of the world’s food supply—and why developed countries should consider this efficient form of protein. I especially appreciate the cooking demonstrations. Care for a grasshopper taco? You can find the complete 13-minute episode below. Bon appetite.

You can subscribe to PBS Digital Studios YouTube channel [here]. Or just the “The Good Stuff” playlist  [here]. A new episode and/or playlist from “The Good Stuff” is available on the second Monday of every month.

Update (10/29/2015): Here’s an interesting article (“Do Not Feed Bugs to Students”) from Ted Fujimoto about the ways in which schools feed students “bugs” in the form of disengaging curriculum under the illusion of choice [read it here]