focus on video and DVD


With increasing emphasis being placed on interactivity in learning, some perceive video as a static format. In fact, video in the classroom can be much more than students staring at a screen. Videos can educate, spur discussion and inspire all kinds of activities. With the exciting DVD format becoming more accessible to schools, even more possibilities exist.

In this month’s Focus On, we take a look at a number of video and DVD titles that might find a place in your classroom.

Based on the award-winning novel by Wilson Rawls (author of Where the Red Fern Grows), Disney Educational Productions’ Summer of the Monkeys tells the story of Jay Berry Lee, a 12-year-old boy growing up on a turn-of-the-century farm in the rural Ozarks. His summertime adventures begin when he finds a band of runaway circus monkeys and sets out to earn the reward offered for their return.

The 8-page teacher’s guide that accompanies the video features activities to help students develop their writing skills, identify elements of a story, analyze characters and explore such writing techniques as foreshadowing. Additional activities focus on author Rawls, arts and crafts, and monkeys. A copy of the novel is included. With good production values, this well-made retelling of the classic novel will entertain while offering a new perspective on the original work.

Also from Disney, Bill Nye the Science Guy Sampler V includes ten new classroom edition video programs from the popular TV series. Every title in the sampler comes with a comprehensive educator-designed teacher’s guide. Some of the topics covered are atoms, motion, fossils, erosion, fluids, storms, farming, life cycles, probability and time. Another title for the science classroom is the Animated Science Collection. The four videos featured in this set are Harold and His Amazing Green Plants, Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons, Recycle Rex and Animated Earth: Forces that Shape Our Planet.

Staying on the topic of science, a pair of videos from Hawkhill Associates delves into the complex world of genetics and cloning. The Human Genome Project takes a look at the international study to decipher all the genes in the human species. Intended for high school and college classrooms, the video takes this complex, Herculean task and makes it very accessible and easy to understand. The program takes students into a state-of-the-art automated gene sequencing laboratory to learn some of the actual techniques being used in the study.

Cloning: How and Why examines the equally complicated concept of cloning in a very understandable manner. It discusses the world’s most famous sheep, Dolly (the first cloned mammal), as well as developments that have been made in cloning since then. The video explains the science behind cloning, as well as possible future applications of animal cloning.

Moving from the future to the past, we go to Colonial Times, one of the many titles available in Sunburst’s A Field Trip to Yesterday video series. Shot at historic restorations in York, Maine; Phillipsburg Manor, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Colonial Williamsburg, this video takes students in grades 3-8 on a journey back to Colonial America. There they can get a glimpse of life as it was lived in the original 13 colonies.

The video program is divided into eight sections: The Lost Colony, The Southern Colonies, The New England Colonies, The Middle Colonies, Home Life in the Colonies, Colonial Schools, Colonial Trade, and The End of the Colonial Period. Accompanying the video is a teacher’s guide containing a variety of discussion questions and activity sheets designed for before, during and after viewing. Follow-up activities, interdisciplinary activities, exercises in map skills, a video transcript and more are also included. Other titles in the Field Trip to Yesterday series include Historic Philadelphia and Plimoth Plantaion.

Another history title of note is Goldhil Home Media International’s Abraham Lincoln: A New Birth of Freedom. Originally seen on PBS, this video explores the life of Abraham Lincoln and his significant efforts to establish freedom for all Americans. From humble farming origins, he went from merchant to lawyer to state legislator, while forging the political ambitions that would take him to the Presidency. Along the way, he also developed a sense of morality and justice that would change America and the world forever.

The program is 60 minutes long and features the voices of Peter Coyote and Louis Gossett, Jr., with special appearances by Mario Cuomo, Ted Koppel, Rep. Jack Kemp, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. John Lewis.

With their special features and superior image and sound quality, DVDs are beginning to find a place in education. With that in mind, we’ll take a look a few DVD titles now available for the classroom.

Goldhil’s Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie chronicles the top secret history of the design, production and testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs by the United States. This is done with rare and unique 60-year-old footage that has been digitally restored. Also included is rare film from the top-secret government bomb tests conducted by Great Britain and China, and the largest hydrogen explosion ever created by Russia.

Narrated by William Shatner, this DVD features an original score performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and an interview with Dr. Edward Teller, a developer of nuclear weapons and one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. The DVD format allows features not found on the home video release, such as Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, a special director’s commentary, interactive menus, live-action bomb explosions with actual sound delay, a listing of all United States nuclear detonations and much more.

Another from Goldhil is WWII In Color, a three-hour digitally mastered DVD that presents a true picture of what the GIs experienced. The color photography brings the horror and the bravery of World War II to a new level of intensity. Footage includes: Hitler and Eva Braun, D-Day, a B-17 bombing raid over Germany, the Allied advance into France and Italy, the liberation of Dachau, Midway, Saipan, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Hiroshima.

Special bonus features include: a timeline with vintage newsreels and photos giving an overview of the war; a global map that separates the war into Pacific and European battles; Combat America, an uncut 60-minute government film narrated by Clark Gable; and never before seen declassified footage.

Pioneer New Media Technologies has released DVD Bundles for K-12 educators. Each bundle is equipped with the DVD-V7200 (Pioneer’s industrial video player), UC-V109BC barcode reader, remote control, cables and an assortment of DVD titles with accompanying barcode and activity guides.

The first bundled DVD-2 Pack features the titles Africa: The Serengeti and Tropical Rainforest. The DVD-4 Pack incorporates these titles with Antarctica and Whales, all filmed in IMAX and published by Slingshot DVD.

—Jim Schneider

[email protected]



Contact Information

Animated Science Collection
Bill Nye the Science Guy Sampler V Summer of the Monkeys
Disney Educational Productions
Burbank, CA
(818) 567-5684

Cloning: How and Why The Human Genome Project
Hawkhill Associates, Inc.
Madison, WI
(800) 422-4295

A Field Trip to Yesterday: Colonial Times
Sunburst Communications
Pleasantville, NY
(800) 431-1934

Abraham Lincoln:
A New Birth of Freedom Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie WWII In Color
Goldhil Home Media
Thousand Oaks, CA
(800) 250-8760

DVD Bundles
Pioneer New Media Technologies
Long Beach, CA
(310) 952-2799

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.