In Arkansas, a Documentary Approach to Heatstroke Education

June 6, 2016

108 Degrees: Critical Response, heatstroke, AETN


As the summer heats up in Arkansas, educators, coaches and public television viewers  throughout the state can learn to beat heatstroke and other heat-related illnesses from 108 Degrees: Critical Response, an acclaimed documentary from the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). The program combines personal stories of families devastated by heatstroke with expert analysis and advice on preventing and treating heat-related illnesses.


“If you don’t put oil in your car, your engine burns up. And that’s what heatstroke did to Kendrick’s body — his body just burned up,” says Rhonda Fincher, describing her 13-year-old son’s death in the film, which takes its title from the body temperature that causes death.

AETN produced the hourlong documentary in 2014 after a state law mandated that all public school coaches receive training in several areas, including heat-related illnesses.

The documentary, which garnered two honors from the National Educational Telecommunications Association, puts a human face on the sometimes fatal illness by featuring three families who had sons treated for heatstroke, including two at the same time in Arkansas Children’s hospital.

“With health issues, you make sure it’s not just facts that they have to remember,’ said producer Amy Waller in describing their approach. “Coaches, especially, tend to be visual type learners, so this film lends itself to this type of format.”

The heatstroke victims featured are all football players, but the film stresses the dangers of heat-related illness to anyone exerting themselves in the heat, including tennis players and marching bands. The film airs on public television statewide during the summer as a public service to parents, trainers, band directors, volunteers and anyone else spending significant time in the heat.

“It’s a pretty timeless video, one we hope people refer to often,” said Fincher, who directs Kendrick Fincher Hydration For Life, a foundation dedicated to hydration and prevention of heat-related illnesses. “All our experience shows that laws don’t change lives — education saves lives.” 

Approximately 700 Arkansas educators have viewed the documentary for an online professional development course through ArkansasIDEAS (Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools), an AETN collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Education. Many more have seen the film in classroom-based professional development courses. Positive feedback includes that of band directors, whose students routinely rehearse on the hot asphalt in the punishing summer heat.

108 Degrees: Critical Response will air statewide on June 7 at 6:00 pm on AETN-3, and on June 26 at 1:30 pm on AETN, the statewide HD PBS channel. The documentary, followed by a one-hour panel discussion featuring the families, also streams online at and YouTube.