Classroom in the Wild: Chesapeake Bay

Postponed until Spring Break 2020

SOC's Center for Environmental Filmmaking is excited to offer students a one-week program during American University's spring break on the Chesapeake Bay, March 9-16, to introduce them to the challenges and fun of environmental filmmaking. This course will be limited to 14 students. For information on last year's program- read the report.

This week-long, non-credit class is for both first-time and experienced filmmakers and photographers who have an interest in the environment, natural history and the outdoors. Led by award-winning filmmakers Ashley Luke and Shannon Shikles, students will gain hands-on experience learning all aspects of environmental filmmaking: from what gear to use in the field to how to best compile your footage into a compelling environmental video.

Students will rotate between positions of producer, director, cinematographer, sound recordist, writer, and editor in order to collaborate on group and individual projects. The instruction will include guest filmmakers on a variety of topics and skill-building pertaining to wildlife and environmental filmmaking. This program will serve as an enjoyable educational experience for aspiring filmmakers, photographers, and anyone interested in communicating environmental issues through digital media.

For more information, contact Maggie Burnette Stogner,

Classroom in the Wild: Chesapeake Bay is listed as COMM-080-001. There are no prerequisites.

The class has a $900 program fee. All basic costs during field production will be covered, including food, lodging, and fuel costs for transportation. Students are expected to provide their own food, lodging, and transportation during pre-production and post-production sessions at American University. Production and editing equipment will be provided for students.

All equipment will be provided and students will have hands on training with state-of-the-art equipment for environmental and wildlife filmmaking. Students may wish to purchase an external hard drive to store media for personal use after the course is completed; however, media storage will be provided for the purposes of the course.

Classroom in the Wild: Chesapeake Bay is open to all interested persons; you do not have to be a student at, or have any affiliation with, American University. This is on a first come, first serve basis. If you are an AU student, please register for the class the same way you would register for any credit-bearing course. If you are not an AU student, please contact Professor Stogner directly. 

If you would like to receive a copy of the syllabus, please email Professor Maggie Stogner at

Wye Island NRMA is in the tidal recesses of the Chesapeake Bay between the Wye River and the Wye East River. Of Wye Island's 2,800 acres, 2,450 are managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Maryland Park Service for resource management, recreation and agriculture. A major emphasis at Wye Island is to provide suitable habitat for wintering waterfowl populations and other native wildlife. A primary resource management objective at Wye Island is the stabilization of the 30 miles of ever-eroding shoreline. These efforts are accomplished through a partnership between Maryland DNR and numerous environmental advocacy groups, such as the Chesapeake Bay Trust, schools and scout groups. Wye is also close to many other natural habitats such as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge which make it an ideal location to base from for day trips along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.


We'll cover how to approach animals safely and in a non-threatening way. We will also discuss how to get good clean location sound. What camera do you choose, and which equipment suits situations you anticipate encountering? What additional equipment can I use to create unique and compelling shots, and how do I pack it in and out and leave no trace behind? More generally, students will learn how to prepare themselves and their equipment for wilderness conditions to make the most of their filmmaking opportunities, and keep them shooting safely and effectively in the wild.


How do the cameraperson and field producer stay creative when they are uncomfortable, hot/cold and exhausted? What does it take to go the extra mile to get that better camera angle? What happens when you are following the storyline but then something unexpected happens that you would like to include? Can you quickly think of shots you will need that lead into that new situation and shots that bring you out again?

Students will take their footage into the editing suite and discover how well their material cuts together into a compelling piece, and how to improve from there. We will talk about continuity, story and pacing.


For more information, contact Professor Maggie Burnette Stogner at:

Classroom in the Wild

I felt I got four years of experience in a week's time.

Michael Rice endured blustery winds and bitter cold on the Chesapeake Bay to create a video about the harsh beauty of the landscape and the harm wildlife faces today. The mentors he found through Classroom in the Wild not only coached him in camera techniques, but gave him life tips on time management, marketing, and careers. The experience taught him to collaborate, problem solve, be persistent, and never give up. Michael learned the importance of creating art that makes a difference. For him, that’s what makes a filmmaker.