I’m a huge fan of the Seinfeld TV show. Despite being in middle school when the show first aired, as I began to understand the world with a bit more cynism and farce as I entered high school, Seinfeld came to be the lens through which I perceived the world of hypocrisy, people behaving poorly, and observational comedy. There was a particular episode during the last season, in which one of the main characters, Frank Costanza, had been diagnosed with having high blood pressure. In an attempt to relieve himself of stress, he is advised to repeat the calming mantra “serenity now” when he feels his stress level rising. In true comedic fashion, whenever Frank begins to feel stressed during the episodes he yells, “SERENITY NOW!” at the top of his lungs, completely negating the calming effects that a peaceful mantra might have, and providing plenty of laughs during the episode.
I often wonder how many people use a calming mantra effectively, and being someone who is far too hyper-aware of media, I’m always drawn to those calming music kiosks you see at many big box retailers like Target. I decided to produce a 10 minute video of calming music and scenery that might actually have some sort of beneficial nature when viewed, and then create a ds106 video assignment out of it. You can watch the video below, or see it on Youtube by following this link.
The nature scenes in the video are very repetitious, which is by choice. I was hoping to produce a variant of the 10 minute “Insane Edition” Youtube challenge, in which a small piece of audio or video is repeated for ridiculous effect, and then copy and pasted for a total of 10 minutes. Many of these videos are nothing more than the same 3 or 4 seconds of video in a constant 10 minute long repetitive loop, making it a challenge to sit through. Since I didn’t feel that the idea of providing serenity would be met with the same structure, I took three video clips that I gathered this last weekend at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, and cut them down to about 52 seconds each. I then repeated those same 3 clips to create the sense of circular passage of time, rather than linear.
I then went hunting over at Soundcloud for a 10 minute piece of ambient music that someone had shared with a creative commons license for resuse, and I found this wonderful gem of a tune by “Psyeck” titled “Elements of Nature“.
The music is very serene, and the imagery coupled with it actually produced a rather calming effect for me. I’ll admit, it’s very simplistic, and in hindsight, I would have gathered more video clips for this, as I didn’t want to rely on “off the shelf” stock footage. I wanted the video to all be mine, reflecting places that I found serene.
So why in the world am I sharing this then? Well for starters, I’m a HUGE fan of using imagery, video, and music to affect the mood of my classroom. I kept several playlists of different music to help coordinate and frame the different periods and activities throughout the day in my class. Peaceful quiet music for reading or independent work time, Classical music for taking tests, and high energy music for group work or bell time. This video would be something I could have used at the end of a long week, or a way to get students to try and “clear” their minds before doing some reflection.
HOWEVER, pushing aside all of those touchy, hippie-like sentiments, an assignment like this might give a teacher an excellent window into their student’s lives. Ask them what calms them, what brings them to their center, and makes them feel safe. Maslow contested that if learners don’t feel comfortable and secure, then higher-order learning objectives would be very difficult to achieve, and asking your students to create something personal like this could help to establish the professional bond that teachers have with learners. It wouldn’t require much class time, and even if you did have students put this project together in class, it would be an amazing way to assess how well they understood emotion and persuasive storytelling through video and other media, a skill that is rapidly becoming necessary in an increasingly digital world.