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  • merrynthomas

"It was a blast”: creating the Shout Trout Workout comic and video to engage young people with fish

From a blog post published on People and Nature's Relational Thinking blog here. For the open access paper published in People and Nature, see here.

A page from the Shout Trout comic, written by Merryn Thomas and illustrated by Ethan Kocak.

Migratory fish populations are declining due to pressures including climate change, pollution, and fragmentation caused by dams and other structures. As the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration begins, we need to better engage people with this hard-to-see and complex environmental topic. One such engagement is the Shout Trout Workout: a lyric poem, comic, and music video that we designed to entertain and enrich learning about migratory fishes and aquatic environments for 8-14-year-olds.

In this paper, the FIRE Lab team and collaborators Ethan Kocak and TankThink chart and reflect on the process of creating the Shout Trout Workout, including conception of ideas, writing the poem, fact-checking and developing the storyline with scientists. In doing so, we draw out the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the creative and engagement process, discuss what helped us to collaborate effectively, and consider how the experience shaped our thoughts about the nature of collaboration itself.

We discuss how we had to be flexible to respond to drivers from both outside and within our team. The journey to creating the Shout Trout Workout was not straightforward and involved what might be thought of as ‘dead-ends’ and time-consuming U-turns… but far from being a waste of time we found that these ‘riffles’ formed an important part of the process, and ultimately led to a more dynamic and thoughtful creation about a Brown trout’s migration story.

We found that collaboration can play out in nuanced ways and take a multitude of forms: from offering scientific steers, to ensuring a smooth process through diplomatic communication, and sharing outputs. Indeed, collaborators contributed to the Shout Trout Workout in unanticipated ways, showing the importance of openness and flexibility towards expertise and collaboration. Our experience thus contributes to a broader understanding of ‘co-creation’ as not only relevant for those who are highly artistic, but something that can be practiced on a spectrum and in myriad ways.

We hope that our reflections will be useful and inspiring for other creative partnerships aiming to make engagement material related to ecological processes. And we hope you enjoy the Shout Trout Workout!

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