Family Viewing: Looking and Building

By Maldonado, Nancy S.; Winick, Mariann Pezzella | Childhood Education, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Family Viewing: Looking and Building

Maldonado, Nancy S., Winick, Mariann Pezzella, Childhood Education

Home television viewing plays an important role in daily family life. The choices are many: films, classic children's films, popular animated books, and TV series are all readily available. The newer, popular, and relatively inexpensive DVDs (digital versatile discs) provide menus laden with options for viewing, ranging from language preference to accompanying games for family use.

This column is directed to educators with the hope that the family viewing experiences of their students can provide material for the enrichment of classroom instruction. By being better-informed, teachers will be able to include parents in building the needed extension of home viewing to home/school learning.

FINDING NEMO. 2003. DVD/VHS formats. Walt Disney Pictures, Pixel Animation Studios Burbank, CA, 91521; 100 minutes.

Everyone loves a good story. Being alone, seeking independence, and finding a lost loved one help to make for such a story. This is certainly the case with Finding Nemo, the story of a lost child and a lost father and their search for one another. It is the highest grossing animated movie in movie history, a best-selling home video, and the fastest-selling DVD ever. The awesome and mysterious world of the ocean is explored and revealed through state-of-the-art animation, which engages the audience. Fish, flora, and fauna come alive through colorful and digitally sharp animation and a catchy musical sound track. Little Nemo, captured and thrown into an aquarium away from his ocean world of family and friends, learns to overcome many obstacles. Suspense, drama, and comedy permeate this warm-hearted story of a son being reunited with his father after a dangerous adventure.

Extensions: Primary school children can take trips to aquariums and beaches. Exposure to picture books (e.g., Swimmy by Leo Lionni; One Fish, Two Fish by Dr. Seuss) and nonfiction books on sea life can complement the viewing. Children can collect, label and classify pictures of different ocean life. Elementary school children can focus on the key role that oceans play in the grand scheme, and how people can help or hinder their welfare. Other extensions include: developing sea-related vocabulary (e.g., schooners, divers, coral reefs, ocean currents, etc.); making a time line of Nemo's and hi s father's search for each other; creating a map of land and sea masses; studying particular ocean mammals and fish (e.g., dolphins, whales, sharks, etc.). Middle school children can read Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (the hero, Captain Nemo, is Nemo's namesake). They also can investigate books and films on Jacques Cousteau.

ICE AGE. 2002. DVD/VHS format. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., P. O. Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213; 81 minutes.

This allegorical animated film/DVD is geared to the primary school-age child. The issue of trust looms large as a lost infant is found by a group of glacier age mammals: Manfred the mastodon, Sid the sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger. Their commitment to returning the lost child to his father is challenged by massive ice glaciers, predators, and the migration of mammals and dinosaurs in a frozen world. Cinematic freedom is taken with the geographical and historical aspects of the story. While such facts are stretched to their limit, the story holds the viewer because of its theme of a lost child and a "bad guy turned good." Digitally enhanced visuals help provide for focused viewing, as does the comfortable pacing of the music and action. Viewers will enjoy the themes of friendship, teamwork, trust, and common sense.

Extensions: Discussion of this film can be used to help children clarify their feelings related to trust, friendship, and teamwork. Use a time line as an introduction to the Ice Age and other epochs in the earth's development. Present a study of the glaciers and their impact on land formations and life forms. Many museums of natural history have excellent material available for educators. …

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