As part of their STREAM education, middle school students from 10 diocesan schools viewed the screening of the documentary, "Finding Noah," about an expedition to the summit of Mount Ararat in Turkey to search for scientific evidence of Noah's Ark. The screening took place at the Buffalo Museum of Science.
The movie's director and producer, Brent Baum, took part in a question-and-answer session with students. He filled in for Jonathan Shaw, a local Catholic school graduate who produced, co-wrote and edited the film, but was in Hollywood during the May event. Students also participated in a series of breakout sessions meant to explore the various subjects covered in the documentary.
"Making a film is really a task that requires a lot of people, hundreds of people," Baum said. "My partner, Jonathan Shaw, couldn't be here. Jonathan is one of the most skilled and renowned film editors and producers in Hollywood. He came from here. He came from your school system, and it really was an honor for me to work with him as a first-time director."
After watching the movie, students completed coursework at the museum on a variety of topics related to the film: "Listen Up: Music and Film," "Documentary Filmmaking," "Archaeology Below Zero," "Expedition Survival: Do You Have What it Takes?" "Frankensteining," "For Mountain Rescue," "Religious Tolerance," "Conflict in the Middle East," "Hero and Quest," and "An Explorer's Story." The topics focused on the six STREAM subjects of science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math.
The 10 participating schools included St. Joseph in Batavia, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Depew, Immaculate Conception in East Aurora, St. Andrew's Country Day School in Kenmore, Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls, Nativity of our Lord in Orchard Park, St. Mary in Swormville, and SS. Peter and Paul and St. Gregory the Great in Williamsville. Jean Comer, STREAM coordinator for Catholic schools, said the event was "fabulous" and "beyond our expectations, as far as student enjoyment and engagement."
"Principles of STREAM are exposure and emphasis in all areas and the interdisciplinary connections of all learning, with relevant, real-life application of their learning," Comer said. "This is an experience that makes all of the principles come together, and kids can enjoy documentary filmmaking and all of the richness that there is in these types of films. We're devising a model for students to experience documentary films, so that they are not just taking them in as a passive experience, but taking the richness of educational opportunities and then experiencing them through courses that relate to them."
According to Comer, the event came about when Virginia Wallace, community relations coordinator for the diocesan Catholic Alumni Partnership, contacted Shaw, an alum of Christ the King School in Snyder, regarding his story of where his Catholic education brought him.
"Ginny went after this guy, interviewed him, went to see his showing in the fall at one of the local theaters, knew what we were doing with STREAM, all the interdisciplinary, relevant experience, and put us in touch," Comer said.
Baum related his experience in the film industry to the film itself, which followed the group of explorers as they had to work with the Turkish government for permission to go, and battled illness from the altitude, as well as civil unrest, while climbing to the Biblical resting place of Noah's Ark. Only 60 percent of the original team made to the summit, with the rest being picked up from various points along the way. Religious and ethnic groups have contested this region for much of history. It remains a warzone today.
Baum said he would go on another expedition, but the team has tried for two years to go back. The Turkish government is not giving permits because of the hostilities in the region, including bombings of villages.
"Like this movie, life is a journey, life is an adventure, and you're going to find a way to do the things that you want to do," Baum said. "For me, moviemaking was part of it, and like I say, I've been blessed to be able to work in Hollywood for a long, long time. I've been in Hollywood for 26 years. Hollywood is a great place, but never in my life have I had an adventure as crazy as what became 'Finding Noah.'"
For more information visit www.findingnoah.com.