Using Media to Document Public Attitudes on Waste

Authored by Sya Buryn Kedzior, Towson University
Author Profile


In this project, students work in small groups to document public attitudes on waste. Students use media tools to record "person on the street" interviews with members of the local community on various types of waste. Students then edit shorter videos into a larger film that incorporates student commentary on waste in our society, drawing on material from a course on the 'Ethics of Consumption and Waste'. Students then host a community screening of the film, getting feedback on their project.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Students develop video editing and filmmaking skills, as well as research development skills by constructing interview questions and sampling techniques. Through the project, students learn to investigate public opinions on waste, to think reflexively about their own views, and then to synthesize these into a final film dialogue. The project addresses environmental justice by asking the public to reflect critically on relationships between waste and society, and the ethical issues of how waste is treated and stored.

Context for Use

This is a term-long project for an upper-division University seminar on 'Ethics of Consumption and Waste'. It requires access to video cameras and editing equipment, as well as student/faculty video editing skills.

Description and Teaching Materials

Media technologies are used in a semester-long project examining attitudes, opinions and values on waste among ECW students and the local population (including university students, staff and faculty as well as members of the local community).

Students would gather into groups of 3-4 people and each group selects a type of waste to examine. Possible topics include e-waste, solid (human) waste, food waste, wastewater, hazardous or industrial waste. Students develop a research project examining public attitudes, opinions, and values associated with their waste topic, including a short list of survey questions. Using media technologies, student groups conduct and record surveys, conducted as "person on the street" interviews during public events, and then edit the video into a short film that presents student findings, and provides a synthesis or analysis of local public opinion on their waste topic. The class then edits together the shorter videos into a larger film that would incorporate student commentary on waste in our society, drawing on lessons from the larger course.

The final product is a film on 'Waste in our Community', which would be screened at either the university's annual environmental conference or one of the college's community film viewings. The screening brings local experts, scholars, and activists to campus in order to hold a dialogue with the student filmmakers and members of the broader community on how our community understands and engages with waste, especially as a by-product of our habits of consumption. The project introduces students to the use of media technologies as a tool for community engagement.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Both students and instructors should have adequate filmmaking and editing experience, or outside support will be necessary to complete the technical aspects of this project.


Peer assessment occurs informally within small groups as the students construct their projects. Small groups report their progress weekly in class to the instructor and other classmate. Formal peer assessment is conducted via survey at the end of the term when small groups submit their video segment to the class. Finally, the instructor assesses student achievement of learning goals using a grading rubric after submission of the final video segment.

References and Resources