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Movies in Science

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Katherine Tierney Katherine Tierney 1780 Points

I am a fourth grade teacher taking a science in movies class. I wanted to use the movie Flubber with Robin Williams to demonstrate our Hawaii science standard of mixing subtances to create a new one. I have found some examples like combining vinegar and baking soda to create a gas, but I was looking for more help. I am planning a lesson that ties in with the movie and need some safe examples that the students can explore with on their own. The substances can tranform to a liquid, solid, or gas. Does anyone have any suggestions? Also, does anyone have suggestions for any other movies that might highlight this standard? It need to be a mainstream Hollywood movie.

Donna Martin Donna Martin 4025 Points

I did a lab to make a polymer (silly putty) I did it in my high school lab but it can be used with most ages, the kids loved it. Here is one example of the lab.[url=]

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Silly putty is a great suggestion, Donna. I like Oobleck, too, Katherine. I am attaching 3 resources from the NLC about oobleck, etc. I hope you find them helpful.
Idea Bank: Oobleck and Beyond for high school
Recipes for middle school
Water “Stick-to-It-Ness”: A Penny for Your Thoughts a book chapter that mentions oobleck (elem & middle school)
Hope this helps.
Also, there is another discussion thread with the same title: Movies in Science in the Elementary Science Discussion Forum. It may have some additional ideas for you, Katherine.

Katherine Tierney Katherine Tierney 1780 Points

Thank you ladies. I love the idea of silly putty and I think the students would be very engaged in these activities. I also appreciate the resources, I don have nearly enough resources for my science class.

Liamarie Thomas Liamarie Thomas 2360 Points

Hi Katherine! Flubber is a great movie idea to tie in with our science standards. Another thing that I've done with my class is to make slime. The kids had fun doing that and the materials are pretty easy to get and it's inexpensive!all you need is white glue and borax and food coloring. Another project we did was to make crystals. All we needed for that was hot water and borax and pipe cleaners. Both projects were pretty easy to do and the kids get to take something they made home! We usually used the crystals as our Xmas gifts. Flubber is a really good movie suggestion!! Aloha Lia

Vincent Lowery Vincent Lowery 2750 Points

I too am taking the movies in science class and think Flubber would be a fun and engaging movie for the kids. Thanks also for the ideas about silly putty and for the links to to article about Oobleck. I never did any of this fun stuff (I did grow crystals),and I really want to give it a try. The kids would love these kinds of lessons and when they take it home they can explain it to their families, another level of their learning.

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

I showed the older flubber movie...i like that one better...and im only 29! My kids were like...whats this black and white stuff?

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

I wanted to open this topic to learn more about how other teachers are using movies to teach science. Has anyone participated in any of Steve Wolf's Science in the movies workshops? I wonder if he will be in Indianapolis? By the way Steve Wolf's science in the movies also has a facebook page Now I am not a great fan of worksheets but there is a website where one can find worksheet to connect to the science in the movies Has anyone used this source? What were your experiences?

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

The ACS recently held a webinar entitled "Secret Science of Movie Stunts and Special Effects" You can watch the archive here It runs for about an hour Pam

Emily Libby Emily Libby 7695 Points

Before reading these posts, I had not thought about using Flubber as movie to teach science. Would The Nutty Professor be another good movie to use for teaching science?

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Emily, One concern I would have using either Flubber and/or the Nutty Professor is the way scientists are portrayed. Several studies of student's perceptions of scientists reveal an all too frequent comical, socially awkward guy is a lab coat with large glasses. Now if we want students to aspire to scientific endeavors, this might not be the image we want to encourage. There may be ways to compensate??

Emily Libby Emily Libby 7695 Points

Pamela, What if we used one of those movies as a segue into a lesson about different types of scientists that do not in anyway resemble the ones in those movies?

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Emily, I am not sure of what grade you teach. Often I start my science methods classes for elementary teachers with a "draw a scientist activity" An example can be found here I always get a few "goofy" professors. We then talk about how this image effects the perception of science and the attractiveness of science careers. I think that perception is a real barrier to our need to increase science engagement. So yes, if one wanted to use these movies as examples of the public perception of science as a segue to a broader conversation it would certainly work.

Katherine Tierney Katherine Tierney 1780 Points

I agree with what you ladies are saying about how scientists are portrayed. As a teacher, I am often upset as to how we are portrated in movies. However I feel this movie will be engaging to the students and it was the only one I could find that related to the standard I was addressing. I think I could follow up with doing a lesson on how scientists are portrayed in movies versus how they are in real life. Thank you Lia for the oobleck suggestion. I am planning on teaching that on Tuesday. I was going to do the crystals lesson, but I think I will have that as my follow up lesson. I was wondering if anyone has suggestions on assessment. With the oobleck they are combining the liquid glue with the powder and I am having them predict the state of matter the mixture will create. I am also having them describe what they see and the different stages of change. Once the experiment is complete I am having them write a reflection. I am not sure how deep into the content I should have my 4th graders go. Per the benchmark, is it enough to have them describe the change from the liquid to a solid? Should I have them predict other mixtures and what will occur? Has anyone done a lesson like this before and has a rubric I could use?

Shanae Hatchell Shanae Hatchell 5820 Points

Thanks for all of the great ideas! I will definitely put "Flubber" on my list to watch. I have been reluctant to use many hollywood films in a scientific manner because often times the scientific content is far-fetched or incorrect. The following website, listed five of their best science movies and five of their worst science movies. They provided explanations of what was right scientifically and what was wrong scientifically.

Garrett Arakawa Garrett Arakawa 600 Points

I'm taking the course as well. I was thinking fight club...the soap making scene. Then following up by making soap...OR fllubber and polyvinyl alcohol & borax

Sung Yi Sung Yi 1555 Points

You can also use guar gum and borax solution as well. Guar gum is readily available in food grade as well as lab grade.

Liamarie Thomas Liamarie Thomas 2360 Points

Hi Katie~ When my class did the experiment we started off by looking at each of the matierials and the students discussed the physical properties of each and we compared what makes them similar or different. Then we talked about what product they might get if they were to mix the ingredients of the ooblek together. They practiced using their descriptive words and came up with, "soft, cold, hard, sticky, mushy, stinky, powdery" etc. I had the class do each step together then as we completed each step they recorded their observations about what changes they saw. Even though some of the students had made this in previous years, it was such a delight to see their exceiment as they pulled their substance out from the water. What made if pretty amazing is that when they combined the seperate mixtures it looked and felt (through the ziplock) like only water, but when they pulled it out is was the oobleck! As for a rubric I just used their observations and descriptive words to grade their investigation. For our closure we watched clips of Flubber and they could relate to how flubber could be true. As for the assessment I had them create their own recipe with ingredients and they needed to justify how and why their mixture might show a change from one state of matter to another. Aloha, Lia

Erin Mendelson Erin Mendelson 2690 Points

HI! Although this suggestion may not apply so well with chemistry, there are several great science fiction movies that introduce ideas about space science. At Wheeler Midddle, the science and language arts departments have created an interdisciplinary unit plan to incorporate space science into lessons on Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Science lessons on planets, space travel, and the sun are woven into the plot development. It's been great to share planning with other teachers. Some science movies for children: Honey, I shrunk the kids Back to the Future Tron Meet the Robinsons ET Ghost Busters The Iron Giant

Opt_out Opt_out Tara Soleta 1560 Points

Katie and Lia, There is a helpful website that teachers can use for assessments and/or lessons. The science section has a variety of topics and each topic has several worksheets for movies. I used the chemistry section for the Flubber movie lesson we recently did. The chemistry section has 39 movie worksheets! Having a difficult time choosing movie clips to share with my students for lessons, this site gave me a jumpstart! When I did the lesson with my class I used similar assessment strategies. Student reflections which needed to include the vocabulary words we charted during the lesson.

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Thanks, Tara, for listing that site for the movie questions. What a great resource to have! Thanks again! Kendra

Shannon Hudson Shannon Hudson 2555 Points

mix some corn starch and water- the n place on stereo speaker and watch it bounce :-)

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Teach with movies provides lesson plans for using movies in the classroom Not all are free

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

How many times have you watched a movie and thought to yourself that cant happen? or what a load of rubbish. Well here are a few web sites that go through some of the biggest films of all time to credit and discredit their scientific validity. Most of them include clips and would surely engage and stimulate students. EdGalaxy debunks bad movie science

Vincent Lowery Vincent Lowery 2750 Points

First let me ask Pamela a question. How do you do it? Every time I go to post something there are many great posts by you. Thanks this time for the info about Steve Wolf's science in the movies. I notice he does a lot of stuff with fire and he is bald. hmmm. The movie sheet database is a real timesaver and it provides ideas for movies or videos. Hey, everybody is panning The Core as the worst science movie. That is why it would be a good movie to show at the end of an earth science course for instance. The students would then be tasked with identifying and correcting all of the ridiculous science in the film. I think it would be funny. Thanks also to the others in this forum for your interesting ideas and links.

Cheri Alonzo Cheri Alonzo 1995 Points

I wanted to also thank everyone for all the great ideas for Movies in Science! I also used movie sheet data base and it gave me good ideas to start with. It was a little tricky to figure out how I could integrate into my lesson. It's gotten easier thanks to all the sharing of ideas. I do appreciate - c.

Cheri Alonzo Cheri Alonzo 1995 Points

P.S. I really liked Vincent's idea of showing The Core as the worst science movie. That would definitely give the students a chance to apply what they have learned! I'll keep it on the side if I need something at the very end of the year. There is nothing worse than a class of kids with nothing to do. It gets tricky at the end as many of the 8th graders are just "done." The Core could help get them to the very end! Thanks!

Garrett Arakawa Garrett Arakawa 600 Points

I used a clip of flubber right before we discussed polymerization and thus created a slime-like polymer that kinda looks like flubber. I had kids try to explain the molecular interaction that was taking place. It was short and sweet.

 Dawn Nishimoto 3015 Points

What a great idea using a movie like Flubber to introduce a science concept. I do a science lab with my sixth graders making 3 different kinds of slime (borax/glue slime, cornstarch/water goo, and Metamucil/water flubber). My students observe how the different materials change when added together to make the slime, goo, and flubber. Students design simple experiments to test and compare the properties of the three slimes. I think adding a clip from the movie Flubber or the Absent-Minded Professor will be a great way to introduce this lab. It's been awhile since I've seen either movie so I may need to review them.
Thanks for Sharing!

Katherine Tierney Katherine Tierney 1780 Points

When I was preparing my chemistry lessons I used two helpful books. The first was Stop Faking It, Chemistry Basics and the second was Hard to Teach Chemistry Concepts. I found the Stop Faking It book was helpful to me in planning my lessons and understanding the subtances that were the reacants that help to create a new product or substance. This book focused on the chemical reaction. This helped me when my students created the slime because there was no temperature to change the state of matter which puzzled the students. I felt the Hard to Teach Chemistry Concepts helped me to understand states of matter and how they transformed, and not just on matter itself. Chemistry is a difficult subject for me to teach because I am personally weak in my own knowledge of the concepts. Having these contents helped to reinforce my own understanding and helped me in the explanation part of my lesson. I am wondering when teaching chemistry how deep do other fourth grade teachers go into atoms. Do you discuss them at all? When teaching about polymers do you teach cohesion?

Opt_out Opt_out Tara Soleta 1560 Points

Hi Katie, I also referred to Stop Faking It and found it helpful in understanding chemistry concepts. Before teaching my chemical reaction lesson, I teach the basics of atoms to allow my students to have a better understanding of the properties of matter. Attached is a reading text that I found helpful to teach my 4th graders. It’s one of about 10 resources from In using this text, my students were able to make connections during the lesson.


Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

I really like the Exploratorium website as well for coming up with interesting ideas. I have used their lessons for slime, and there is a site dedicated to polymer chemistry appropriate for late elementary and middle school at

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67955 Points

Pam, I also like to start out with the "Picture a Scientist" activity, but with a small twist - I ask the kids to picture themselves as scientists, after a short community activity and discussion about what our favorite things to do are. Then we put the pictures up around the classroom so we can share our passions and see how they relate to science. That way, I get kids who draw pictures of themselves swimming with the fishes, next to race cars, you name it. That way, they start to break the mold.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Several years go (actually about a decade - how time flies) there was an article in J. Chem. Ed. on a lesson using the Movie Apollo 13. What I liked so much about this was the demonstration of the process of science grounded in the scientific method. I went searching for this and have attached a pdf copy.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Mark Griep gave this presentation at the ACS meeting in Anaheim in 2011. Using Hollywood Movies to Teach Chemistry Formally and Informally, Mark A. Griep Griep tells us the teaching with movies is even better than demonstration because movies show "real" people interacting with chemicals and thus enabling viewers to envision working with chemicals themselves. Dr Griep has also written a book "Reaction in the Movies that you can purchase through Amazon Even more information can be found at Mark Griep's homepage Here is a link to his class: Chemistry in the Movies

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Another article from J. Chem Ed discuses lesson build around the movie October Sky

Angela Hunter Angela Hunter 595 Points

One thing I did with my HS Chem kids, was let them make slime with all the different types of glues. They had to make predictions about which glues would work better & why. After the lab, we looked at the types of glues, the ideal use of the glue, and them evaluated the slime type based on use of glue. It was really nice to see how their brains made connections between use & slime texture. We then heated & cooled the slime to see how temp impacted the slime Just an idea of how to push the slime lab to the "STEM" level. Enjoy (:

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Angela, I like your glue idea as the basis of a project based learning experience. We need glues with difference levels of "stickiness" or strength from post-its to super glue. Students could explore what makes a glue sticky by comparing the strengths of various glues both ones they make in the lab and ones purchased commercially.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points Neil DeGrasse Tyson Investigating The Space Science Of Summer Movies

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Neil Degrasse Tyson Investigating The Space Science Of Summer Movies

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

94 Elements is a new web-based global filmmaking project, exploring our lives through the lens of the elements. Become part of the project now at There are 94 naturally occurring elements, from Hydrogen to Plutonium. Together they make up everything in the world. The stories of the elements are intimately connected to the stories of our own lives. Everything we use and create is made from them. Our own bodies are mostly made from just 6 of the elements. They affect our lives in countless ways, and their stories reveal our relationship with our resources and the patterns of our economies. They are the untold stories of our physical existence. The project is creating a collection of unique human stories by award-winning filmmakers and the best emerging filmmaking talent about the endless ways the elements touch our daily lives. Each filmmaker will create an authored 4-7 minute film around a way we extract or use one element. The films are surprising and moving human stories involving the elements – this is not about science, but about our human elationships with our natural resources.

Caroline Encomienda Caroline Encomienda 720 Points

Thank you everyone for the long list of suggestions … I am also taking the movies in science class and greatly appreciate all the inputs in this forum. The only movie that I could think of showing my class is the Erin Brockovich story which I could use to discuss the effects of chemicals to the environment. From the suggestions, I just remembered that I still have a copy of the October Sky and Apollo 13 movies. I could use the J Chem Ed lessons for those two movies. I love the idea of the Flubber movie relating it to the different science concepts.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points Bringing multimedia into the classroom is a great way to engage students in learning. Supplementing lessons, opening up new interests, and offering inspiration, online videos make for an incredible teaching tool. In 2010, we covered our favorite 100 video sites for educators, and we’ve now updated our list for 2012 with more than 100 resources and more than 25 brand new entries. Read on, and you’ll be able to check out the very best sources for educational videos on the web

TraciAnn Harada TraciAnn Harada 1540 Points

There are a lot of fun and easy reactions. I really like the mentos and soda reaction but it should be done outside. It sure to get the students attention. You could talk about how the mentos (solid) mixes with the soda (liquid) and creates a crazy amount of gas.

There is also making gak. It would be really fun for the kids and the recipe is pretty simple. I am sorry if someone already suggested it. I did not see it. gak recipe

There is also oobleck. Which I think is great. Although, because it is not quite a liquid or a solid it might confuse some of the kids or it could spark a great discussion. Here is the link to how to make the oobleck. I like the video too. Unfortunately, it is on Youtube but I think you might be able to download it and show it in class. Here is the link below:

Anywho, hope this helps! Have fun!

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

TraciAnn, Yes the Mentos demonstration MUST be done outside. The rough surface of the Mento provides for sequestration of the dissolved CO2 in the soda. This is why diet coke produces the most dramatic displays. There is a higher concentration of dissolved CO2 in diet coke. I am not sure whether the lack of sugar allows more CO2 to dissolve or whether more CO2 is added to mask the bitter aftertaste of the artificial sweetener. Interesting question. Maybe another reader can help with that. Regardless the CO2 is already present albeit dissolved in the soda, it is not created. Maybe we could drive learning deeper by having students consider the change in pH when CO2 is dispelled. Dissolved CO2 forms carbonic acid making the soda acidic. Once dispelled the pH rises.

Patricia Reid Patricia Reid 1850 Points

Thank you all for continuing this thread. I like the idea of using Flubber or The Nutty Professor as a way to start a discussion on how a scientist looks like and what they do. I thought after discussing the professors in those 2 movies and what a real one may look like, I would make them all jr. scientists and have them learn about celestial objects. I would ask how can we find out what they are.I will then work with them on their suggestions and see what information we find. As an assessment, I was thinking about showing clips from Star Trek(the one that shows how the crew met), Apollo 13 that shows the astronaut looking down on Earth; or Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind when the group sees the UFO's flying across the sky and having the students draw the celestial objects they saw and try to label their picture. Keep up the great discussion and I will learn more about using movies in lessons.

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