I was wondering about something…

We recently watched the documentary Virunga in class. When we watch movies we no longer take notes.  We simply ask questions.  For each movie each student gets a sheet that looks something like this.  What I have found is that kids watch the movie and explore it from all different personal perspectives, instead of watching it for each fact that I have asked them to find.  The questions they write still are centered around key pieces of content…my worries that the ket facts would be missed or forgotten went unfounded.  Most importantly, I have found that they watch the movie at a deeper level than when I just provided a list of questions for them to answer.  When we pause the movie they ask the questions, not me.  When we come into class the next day, or if we stop the video early they have questions they want answered instead of answering mine.  I have also found that the conversations also go wider than the content in the movie.  They ask for facts in the movie to be put into a wider context.  Some kids write as they watch, some write at the end of class.  It is rare that we watch a movie straight through.  We probably spend nearly half of each class not watching.  Whether it is starting the class with their questions or examining extra sources, or stopping the movie to talk about what we just watched.  And if their is research to be done after the movie, they already have a list of questions to start with.

After watching Virunga we researched who was involved in making the film and the students sent them their questions.  Some got short responses, some long, some received no responses.  It is so easy today to reach out to the people that are making the content your kids are digesting.  From authors to videographers, let the kids contact the writers and producers and ask their questions to them directly.

Below is a trailer from the movie we watched, followed by a sample email response from one of the key people doing the investigating the events in the documentary and a twitter response from one of the producers.



Dear Melanie,

I’m a student and in our class we just recently finished watching the movie “Virunga” and I was wondering about something. I was wondering how it felt to see everything happening in the Congo for yourself, to see all the people in fear of the M23 rebels and watching the military abandon them and especially how it seemed that the military only cared about itself, far more than the people a military is sworn to protect; so I was wondering how you felt, how did it feel to see everything happen right in front of you, and yet (this is just speculation, as I was not there) it seemed so difficult to bear and it seemed almost impossible to help any of the people. So I guess my question is, how do you feel having seen all of it first hand, and having to understand you can’t help everyone?



Hi Nathan,

Thank you for writing after watching Virunga, it is always very nice to hear from people who saw the film. I hope you and your classmates liked it.
It was indeed not always easy to witness the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I lived in eastern Congo for three years and Goma, the capital, became home for me. Many of my friends were affected by the on-going conflict. It made me very angry at times, and being helpless in the face of violence is one of the worst feelings I have experienced.
But as you say yourself, I had to understand that I couldn’t help everyone. That comes with a degree of hardening, I had to learn to not get so emotionally involved as I did at the beginning. But working on Virunga also meant that I was helping to build something much bigger, as the park has been a force for good in the region, protecting wildlife and humans alike, creating jobs and participating in the development. If you want to learn more about it have look here: https://virunga.org/virunga-alliance/
So in a way, I have been helping a lot of people, not everyone of course, but still enough that it helped me to carry on, even through the most difficult moments. I guess the only way to get through those moments is to keep believing in what you do, in the change you can bring, even in small ways, and to have hope.
My warmest regards to you and your class

Mélanie Gouby


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