Have your footnotes mysteriously disappeared from your research paper? Call the Research Rescue Squad.
Whisper finds herself in just a predicament. But how is that possible?
To make matters worse, library books are being stolen and students are being led astray in their research. Enter Dubious Sources and Verde, evil masterminds behind the sinister plot to interfere with students’ research and force all students to come to them for information. Evil, eh?
This is the story behind “Research Rescue Squad,” an Electronic Field Trip produced by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The program will air Thursday, April 16 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. EDT.
Directed and produced by Abigail Schumann, this broadcast is one of her most creative. How exactly do you encourage fourth- through eighth-graders to get excited about the difference between primary and secondary sources and the accuracy of their research?
Part of the answer was steampunk – designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. It’s considered a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy, and in recent years, it has even inspired a fashion movement.
“The vision to use steampunk as a theme came from Abigail. Tom Hammond was the costume designer and a big part of the design team. We used Tom’s costume concept for Dubious Sources as inspiration for the lair or secret hideout,” said Leslie Clark, senior associate producer at the Foundation and the creator of many of the show’s props.
“The set designers built the huge gears out of wood and painted them for us. We found a watch-repair shop that donated a box of old watch parts. I used those gears to create many of the props that were on the set,” she added.
“The chip bags,” Clark said. “We took (snack) chips from the store and made two bags – one for the good guys and one for the bad guys. I created graphics that went with the existing bag’s graphics and just applied them with clear packing tape.”
Clark still has the empty chip bags in her office.
“It was a fun show to do because most of the propping that I do is historical in nature. We look for very specific items that have to be absolutely accurate according to the time period and location. In this show we could be more creative and just go nuts,” Clark said.
Plus there was another surprise. When an actress couldn’t make it to the shoot, Clark was asked to jump in as Officer Under. “I only had about two hours to get some clothes and learn a few lines,” she said.
The story has a happy ending, of course. Good triumphs over evil, even in the world of research. Whisper’s footnotes and excellent reputation as a student are restored, Dubious Sources and Verde are arrested, and students everywhere can once again access accurate research.
Electronic Field Trips are broadcast monthly from October through April. They cover civics and history topics, including the global economy, science, 18th-century music and the complicated topic of enslaved Americans.
The award-winning one-hour live broadcasts are available through online streaming or from local public television affiliates. The broadcasts feature historical documentary or dramatic video in combination with live discussion by experts and historians, as well as interactive opportunities for all viewers via Twitter or an instant feedback poll.
The extensive history resources created for the Electronic Field Trips are now available for on-demand year-round access by subscription in HERO, Colonial Williamsburg’s online multimedia library and e-learning environment for teachers and students.