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General Science and Teaching

Movies in Science

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Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

So, I was wondering if there are any good movies or TV shows for science. I'm not talking about things that are on the Discovery Channel, or the Learning Network, or National Geographic. I'm talking about real popcorn-crunching, go to the theaters, movies (and TV shows). I teach 8th Grade Earth/Space Science, and I think that it'd be a great idea to show stuff like movies and regular TV shows to kids to get science points across. If anything, they can spark ethical debates (like with Jurassic Park) that can lead to further learning and deeper discussions in class. Obviously, these wouldn't be the linchpin of my curriculum, but more like an extension. I already plan to use Finding Nemo in my oceans unit to show the ocean features, the strength of the Great Pacific Gyre, etc. I also want to show the Day After Tomorrow, since it talks about the importance of the Thermohaline current, but also blows a lot out of proportion, so there is definite use there. Same thing with the Core and the magnetosphere. And, I use some episodes from the old Dinosaurs TV show (Jim Henson rocks!) for concepts of conservation, scientific method, and renewable resources. But, I was wondering about others. Movies I was considering using: 2012 -- to discuss scientific method, and when we talk about orbits and gravity (and calendars), does this idea really stand up to reason? A few eps/clips of Futurama Volcano (the one with Tommy Lee Jones) Ya, it's a small list.. any ideas on more?

Sung Yi Sung Yi 1555 Points

Hi Angelo, I am currently teaching physics ad am also looking for movies to show to my students. I showed fast and the furious to talk about kinematics. I think for your class maybe showing journey to the center of the earth might be interesting. It shows a lot of scientific materials, although most of it science fiction, I think it might be great way to introduce some topics. Hope everything goes well. Sung

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

Dude! Journey to the Center of the Earth! I totally forgot about that one! That's a great suggestion! I can see using it as we learn about plate tectonics and earth structures. It's a great non-example for what the layers of the Earth are like. There's also a great line about muscovite that I can use. Thank you so much !

Paula Evans Paula Roknick-Evans 2640 Points

Hi All, I used a clip from Journey to the Center of the Earth with my fourth graders last week when we studied the layers of the earth. We used it towards the end of the lesson, so they were able to point out serious science from laughable. I hope to get them thinking about science in everyday life and questioning what they see in movies and TV shows. I had them write a science fiction story about their own journey to the core and I think their stories were much more creative than in years past because I am trying to use more media in the classroom. Next we will use Dante's Peak for a study on volcanoes and Jurassic Park for a unit on fossils. The Movies in Science class is fun for myself as well as the kids!

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

I'm so glad using Journey to the Center of the Earth worked so well for you! I plan on using it when we cover earth layers and plate tectonics in my 8th grade class. I showed Earth: the Biography, Oceans to my class and they really enjoyed it. Odd to think that they'd like a documentary narrated by a guy with a heavy Scottish accent. But it had great visuals and a really stirring message. It also showed how all the different science content (plate tectonics, oceanography, rock cycle, etc) are connected together and help keep *us* alive. I'm hoping that using Finding Nemo will be just as awesome.

As an aside, I started talking with the PE teacher at my school about this idea, and he jumped all over it. He started researching movies for me and came up with a bunch (like The Lorax, HOW could I forget The Lorax?) and he started thinking about how he could use clips in his own teaching. Interesting, no?

Karen Carlough Karen Carlough 875 Points

I have used Hitcher Hiker's guide to the galaxy at the end of the unit for Planetary Science. Those were 7th graders maybe 8th graders would respond a little better. Thanks for links Tina I will check that out. I am teaching a brief unit on Earth History for the first time so I might use some movies. As well as getting ideas for my old units I teach. For life science unit I usually showed Wall-E, asked them about the environment and even just have them list the biotic factors on earth before Eve comes down and compare it to the space station. Perhaps you could use it for the space unit.

Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry 2250 Points

I plan to use the the Blue Planet seas of life, Open Ocean and The Deep in my class. My students are completing their Google docs slide presentations on a marine organism and I think this will be a great popcorn munching journey into the ocean. Several years ago, we were watching it in one class, mesmerized by the photography and the drama of prey and predators. In walks an administrator with a colleague, they take a quick look around the room for print environment and then sit down and watch it with us through several scenes. I pause the film so they can ask the students questions about the lesson, start the film back up, and it seems like they don't want to leave. That is a great film that covers many standards, especially when you can get the students talking about how the film is made.

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

@Tina: I love the idea of using both versions of "Journey to the Center of the Earth"! I mention Hollow Earth theory during my unit on the interior of the Earth, but I think it might be cool to show them the relevant parts of the movie(s) and then have them do a brief research about Hollow Earth. Then, they compare that with other models of the Earth's interior, and finally end with Plate Tectonics.

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

@Jennifer: Hmm, I hadn't considered Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I thought it might be too out there for them. But, I think I can see where it might work, especially with the idea that the Earth is a giant computer built by aliens. It'd be neat to compare that to Hollow Earth, and then look at the theories for how life started on Earth (my favorite is that we're the results of space garbage from aliens). PS: 42 is the answer to everything.

Jennifer Perry Jennifer Perry 2250 Points

Has anyone used "Gone in 60 Seconds", a 2000 American film starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie? A retired master car thief is forced to steal 50 cars in 72 hours for a crime boss in order to save his brother's life. There is a great scene in the movie where Cage is surrounded by police on the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles Harbor and makes a decision to race the car using a ramp to jump over several vehicles. The camera focuses on the speedometer as Cage shifts the car into higher gears, just before the leap. I think this might make a great intro into a lesson on speed and acceleration.

Ken Liu Ken Liu 2000 Points

I've used "Twister" in my weather unit to demonstrate some misconceptions about tornados, and how Hollywood tends to play upon, and perpetuate these misconceptions. A bit difficult here in Hawaii since we don't really have tornados, but the point got across nonetheless.

Emily Frazee Emily Frazee 2085 Points

I think that Ferngully is a great environmental movie to get kids thinking. There is also Once upon A Forest with the same idea. Some other science themed movies could be Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, the Star Trek movies, Honey I blew up the kids (or Shrunk), Men in Black, Superman etc.. of course the age group would need to be considered but clips from these could be used to get students talking about different science topics. It might be interesting to see if your students can give you ideas to get them looking for science in their entertainment. Best, Emily F.

Mallory Jacobs Mallory Jacobs 10 Points

I'd love to recommend a great film for science teachers about how we study evolution. THE REVISIONARIES is currently in theaters (and DVD for educators)and explores the controversy surrounding the topic. The film's synopsis is below and it's a great film for teachers to get together and watch or for mature students to discuss how we study evolution and why. The website has a trailer and more details: -------- THE REVISIONARIES In Austin, Texas, fifteen people influence what is taught to the next generation of American children. Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly 5 million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the nation as a whole. Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge. After briefly serving on his local school board, McLeroy was elected to the Texas State Board of Education and later appointed chairman. During his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new science and history curriculum standards, drawing national attention and placing Texas on the front line of the so-called "culture wars." In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney from Houston and professor of Law at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, finds himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught, but also fighting to retain his seat on the board. Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University in Texas, McLeroy faces his toughest term yet. THE REVISIONARIES follows the rise and fall of some of the most controversial figures in American education through some of their most tumultuous intellectual battles.

Paula Evans Paula Roknick-Evans 2640 Points

Hi All, I LOVE reading your posts and ideas for movies in science related to specific topics and strands. I get so many great ideas. I have used many clips this year and the kids are starting to understand the rationale behind using popular movies as well as documentaries. They are beginning to pick out the "real" and the "bad" science in popular movies as well as bringing in movie ideas themselves as we begin new units. Interestingly enough, one of the kids mentioned Fern Gully when we began our unit on Environmental Science. I had not thought of that, but one of you mentioned it here. I will definitely use it for our unit. Thanks for all of the input; science this year is really very engaging for me and my students!

Adriana Retman Adriana Retman 2590 Points

Hello everyone. I have used movies like "Antz" or "Bee Movie" to show and discuss how organisms interact and communicate within a colony. You can also discuss how species are all interdependent on each other. I would imagine that the younger audiences would enjoy these movies more, however, I bet there are high school studens who could enjoy these movies in the classroom. Have a great day!

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

So, based on this discussion, I've come up with a sort of mini-project on the interior of the earth/plate tectonics, and I'd like to get some feedback on it. The idea would be that during my lessons on the interior of the Earth and plate tectoncis, I would show a few clips from Journey to the Center of the Earth (both new and old) and contrast them with the some clips from the Core. Then, students would then write a persuasive letter about why the Hollow Earth theory is not a valid model of the Earth's interior, and that plate tectonics is the more valid theory.

Rachael Kelly Rachael Kelly 2300 Points

Angela, I think it's a great idea to incorporate movies/tv shows into the classroom. It's a way to relate to students and that seems hard to do nowadays. I know that the movie Wall-E is one that talks about the importance of recycling as well as some of the issues with global warming plus it's Disney so that should get students interested no matter what age group. This may be a bit of a stretch but ET may be a fun one to do. With the new science coming out about the possibilities of life on other planets or what these life forms could look like if life was possible perhaps you could get the kids to extend on the idea of aliens like ET. Have them debate on what aliens would look like if life existed on other planets and whether ET could be a possible life form. I hope this helps. I think it sounds like a great idea especially for 8th graders. Good Luck!

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

I like the idea of using ET and discussing different forms for alien life. It's a great way to tie in hypothetical types of biochemistry, and how some of those organisms can be found on Earth. And can also lead into different theories for the origins of life. yay!

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

I like the idea of using ET and discussing different forms for alien life. It's a great way to tie in hypothetical types of biochemistry, and how some of those organisms can be found on Earth. And can also lead into different theories for the origins of life. yay!

Meagan Beach Meagan Beach 3175 Points

I like using the idea of the Bee Movie to discuss colonies and how insects interact! It may need an intro about how it is exaggerated and the bees are anthropomorphized, but it is still a good learning tool and has some entertainment value as well. Other ideas could include the March of the Penguins and the Planet Earth series! Those may be viewed as more on the "boring" side to some kids, but I'm sure a lot of kids would really find them interesting! Hope that helps!

Rachael Kelly Rachael Kelly 2300 Points

Angela, Glad you liked the ET idea. Please keep us updated on how that worked out in the classroom. I'd love to know how the students responded to the movie and what they came up with about different life forms and if the lesson was a success! :)

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

@ Rachel, I'll definitely keep you guys posted about ET (btw, my name's Angelo. I'm a boy :p) I won't be able to get to it until more towards the end of this quarter, but I'll DEFINITELY use it in my aquaponics class. Friday, I'm showing parts of Day After Tomorrow to tie in with the thermohaline current, climate change, and hurricanes, so I'll let you guys know how that turned out.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

This is a collection I out together on resources for using movies in your science class room. Flick Clip and Movie Sheets are especially useful

Science in the Movies Collection (8 items)
- User Uploaded Resource
James Johnson James Johnson 95308 Points

I usually show some type of science oriented movie each Friday that ties in with our science topic for the week at my alternative education school. At my school, we get a lot of absences each Friday due to kids going home on visits, so rather than losing half your class and having to go over material twice, the remaining students and I watch and discuss a new relevent educational movie. It brings science to life for a lot of the students and it can be a great extension.

Paula Evans Paula Roknick-Evans 2640 Points

@Pamela, Thank you for posting the resources you found for Science in Movies. I love the worksheets that go with the movies and I plan to use the one for the Lorax as we go further into our Environmental Science unit. This can serve as an advance graphic organizer for students as they watch the film. I think that using these organizers gives students directions on what to watch for while viewing clips and gears them into more critical thinking about the issues for class discussions and projects after viewing the movie. Thanks for the valuable links! Paula

Kiley Soule Kiley Soule 1095 Points

I used the movie Contagion to help reinforce ideas about Epidemiology to my Medical Interventions class. It keeps in line with how things are really done when an outbreak occurs.

Rodney Olson Rodney Olson 385 Points

A good resource for guided worksheets that you can use when showing movies is

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Has anyone looked at science related youtube channels. I just came across Science Nation and love it

Rodney Olson Rodney Olson 385 Points

ScienceAtNASA YouTube channel. This has great, short videos about timely space topics.

Amy Chezik Amy Chezik 765 Points

I'm not sure what grade you are teaching and I know these aren't movies but I really enjoyed watching the Magic School Bus episodes in school. They have tons of information and are enjoyable to watch. Journey to the center of the earth is great for earth layers. Cloudy with a chance of meatballs discusses weather in a fun entertaining way for kids. Another one could be Chicken little. This movie could be used to discuss atmosphere, space, and alien life. If your students are a little older you can watch Jurassic Park to study dinosaurs. Flubber is another one you could relate to safety in chemistry. Meet the Robinson's emphasizes science and inventions. I'm sure there are more, but these are the only ones that are coming to my head right now. Good luck!

Ali Neugebauer Ali Newgebauer 1170 Points

I used Day After Tomorrow in my classes. It actually talks about polar vortexes so it is very relevant to our weather this winter. I have also shown 2012, but I personally believe that Day After Tomorrow is much better. For genetics, Gattaca is a good movie. It is about genetically engineering humans, so it sparks debates. And of course Jurassic Park is always awesome. My kids love Planet Earth and March of the Penguins too.

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

AAPT used to have general sessions of the bad physics in movies and there have been many articles/blogs/comments on using films as science content- wether correct or not. I found the most important thing to view a desired film first, actually a couple of time and then look at the science concepts. I could assign a given film, or allow the students to select a film from among a list - one had been passed around. Readers and contributors to this forum have already identified a few worthy movies. A little walk through web browsing uncovers several sites: 1. Physics in Films, an actual outline of a course with some interesting resources 2. a UTube vid on good and Bad examples of physics - many sites in this category - Goldfinger is highlighted 3. an interesting student presentation of physics in movies - 4. adiscussion of good examples of physics in movies on a physics forum - Take a peek and then share your interpretations and lessons with us. Thanks a bunch, ~patty

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Some resources found in the Learning Center 1. Evolutionary Biology at the Movies: Analysis of Movie Plots Reveals Importance of Biological Issues to Students By: Ronald Edwards 2. Journal Article Using Science Fiction Movie Scenes to Support Critical Analysis of Science By: Michael Barnett and Alan Kafka 3. Spaceships By: Page Keeley and Rand Harrington Grade Level: Elementary School, High School, Middle School 4. I'll Bring the Popcorn By: Jacob Clark Blickenstaff Grade Level: High School

Dylaneigh Reardon Dylaneigh Reardon 1485 Points

The Cove. This is more of a documentary but I watched in in my Oceanography class and it made me cry it was so touching. It is very informative but kept me interested the entire time. I recommend it!

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

I have not heard of the Cove. Dylaneigh could you please tell us a little bit about it and why it had such an impact on you. At what level would you use it with students?

Adaliz Gonzalez Adaliz Gonzalez 5032 Points

The movie October Sky is great to discuss the process of scientific investigations as well as rocket science. Lots of physical science.

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Adaliz, thanks for mentioning October Sky. I had forgotten all about it. Is it available on DVD, do you know? What special parts do you guide your students toward? Do you have a question sheet or do you let them brainstorm and question the science of the movie? ~patty

Adaliz Gonzalez Adaliz Gonzalez 5032 Points

Yes! the movie is on DVD. I ask my students to watch the movie and afterwards we discuss the process the young boys went through "applying" steps of the scientific method. It is also really good to see the persistence of the boys on re-designing their model until they got it right, which is one of the fundamental engineering habits of mind.

Patricia Rourke Patricia Rourke 45925 Points

Thanks for the info, Adaliz. I will share the idea of using this DVD with other teachers. I am sure it will be a hit. ~patty

Angela Miller Angela Snyder 1035 Points

I teach an Environmental Systems class. I show multiple movies throughout the year as we discuss different topics. As an introduction to various environments and the importance of plants and animals in a healthy ecosystem I show the Lorax. During the spring we discuss how water can be polluted and hurt people. I show A Civil Action with John Travolta. This movie is about a court case that took place in Woburn, Mass and involved Leukemia clusters in children. I hope these help.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

The Cove is about Dolphin "hunting" in Japan. It focuses on this community in Japan that is a popular tourist location, but just around the point in "the cove" they have a dolphin harvesting facility. They will lure schools(?) of dolphins into the cove by playing recordings under the water and herd them in and then they trap them with nets and kill them all in a generally barbaric fashion. It's again another sad look at the Japanese "hunting" culture. With their illegal whale hunting and shark finning. Another good movie is called "Sharkwater" it is about the Japanese Shark Finning industry...again sad and eye-opening.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

You could always show the incredibly scientifically accurate movie: Gravity

Hailee Castro Hailee Castro 695 Points

I know that this type of movie does not pertain to the exact topic of this post but I am still curious. When I was growing up, almost all of my science teachers showed "Bill Nye" movies. Are teachers still using them? I remember being so excited as a child when his movies were shown and I feel as if I got a lot out of them. Would my students think I was crazy if I showed them to the class? Or are there better/newer options out there?

Adaliz Gonzalez Adaliz Gonzalez 5032 Points

NSTA has this great article about movies and science. You can browse it by the title "Life" in Movies, from the Science Teacher Magazine. It gives very good ideas to use in the classroom when showing movies.

Mariana Lara Mariana Lara 335 Points

Maybe Twister to talk about weather and natural disasters? I know its old but it might still get the students engaged.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

You can find a complete version of the PBS 1994 Documentary Moon Shot here - Alan Shepard & Deke Slayton tell the inside story of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo NASA Programs which led to the first humans walking on another celestial body, the MOON

Magaly Perez Magaly Perez 1105 Points

This is the website of a scientist named David Brin. These are movies that he suggests to teach different science concepts in the classroom: You could also use those old Goofy at the Olympics cartoons to discuss physics and the exaggerations of physics by cartoons.

Jessica Ceraldi Jessica Ceraldi 670 Points

How many teachers are requiring the viewing of the current series, Cosmos?

Emily Carlson Emily Carlson 1570 Points

I remember in one of my science classes in high school we watched Finding Nemo, Bugs Life,and the Bee Movie. Although these are for little kids it is fun and takes the facts and puts them in a humorous way.

Karyssa Lambright Karyssa Lambright 1640 Points

We watched movies like Finding Nemo too. Even though it is more of a kids movie, it was always something I enjoyed. Definitely a good way to help students connect science concepts.

Steve Kirsche Stephen Kirsche 9145 Points

Wow, thanks to all for some great ideas here.

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