Students learn geography by film

Abbey Swank

Junior electronic media management major Rachel Leischman gives blood for her second time at the American Red Cross blood drive yesterday afternoon. A schedule for future blood drives can be found at the University Health Services Web site.

Tara Raftov

Credit: Ron Soltys

Geography. Maps and countries. Longitudes and latitudes. Icebergs and ships. Diamonds and birds.

Geography can cover more than just a map. That’s what the new class, Geography of Films, is designed to address.

“I wanted to teach this class because most people think of geography as places or cities,” geography graduate student Steve Butcher said. “But geography is a lot more than that. It can include human geography, theoretical relationships and such things as feminism and Marxism.”

He said films are a great way to learn about different areas of geography because every film includes them and it is an entertaining way to teach.

The one-credit-hour class, which begins in March, will be held once a week, three to four weeks, for three hours. During each class, there will be a half-hour long discussion before and after the film is shown, Butcher said.

According to the class syllabus, students will have to write one-page essays on each of the films, reflecting on the concepts presented in each film. They will also have to watch three movies outside of class, he said.

Geography graduate student Aron Massey took the class as a workshop over the summer.

“I liked it a lot,” Massey said. “There was such a wide variety of films. We didn’t watch just one kind of movie. We watched dramas and comedies, which gave it a lot of variety.”

In Titanic, students looked at differences in class structure and how space on the boat was regulated. In The Bird Cage, students looked at various locations and settings and how they are constructed, Butcher said.

He said films such as Blood Diamond may be used in the future to educate students on the geopolitical aspect of films as well.

“I decided to teach a course on geography in films because in my thesis I talked a lot about theoretical notions of space, relationships and political elements,” he said. “Also, graduate assistants usually don’t have summer employment, so that was another incentive to teach it when I did the first time.”

Massey said he may also start to use multimedia in the classes he teaches, which are Introduction to Geography and Geography of U.S. and Canada. He said multimedia can give students an entertaining way to look at geography.

Butcher said students should start thinking about taking a course like that now, so they have time to work it into their schedules.

“There are a lot of these one-credit-hour courses out there,” Butcher said. “Students can learn a lot in those classes and they don’t take up too much time. I think students are not aware they are out there, though.”

For more information on how to enroll in the class, Butcher said to check Web for Students or the geography department’s home page.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Abbey Swank at [email protected].