We went to see Hidden Figures on opening day. That movie led to one of our best homeschooling months yet. We did tons of learning about things from the movie. I thought if we could do that with Hidden Figures, we could do it with other movies too! I went to one of my favorite homeschool groups on Facebook and asked them for movie ideas, and they didn’t let me down! I ended up with a list a mile long, and probably enough movies to watch to last us through middle school. 😀 So expect more of these posts in the future! You’ll be able to find them all in the tab “homeschool with movies” at the top of any page. <3
We decided to start with Big Miracle and rented it from Amazon. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how far this little family friendly movie about whales being trapped off the Alaskan coast was going to take us… but boy, I was wrong.
As we watched the movie I took notes. I just jotted down things we could dig into a little more. I ended up with 21 ideas. Yeah. I was a bit surprised too! My kiddo is easily overwhelmed my large lists, so I encouraged her to pick a couple that she found interesting, and we’d go from there. However, if you wanted to turn this into a full out unit study, you totally could.
Here’s the list I came up with:
Native People of Alaska.
This specific quote really spoke to me. “The ocean is our garden.” I did some looking online and there is quite a bit of information on the Inupiat tribe that is featured in the movie.
A hover barge is originally tasked with breaking the ice to get the whales out. This is one of the items Hanna picked to study and we made a simple hover craft following the directions here. Here’s a video of Hanna’s hover craft.
Here’s a really informative post on how hover craft work.
The whales became trapped because they didn’t start migration in time (for reasons you’ll find out in the movie).
Green Peace (convservation/activism)
Economic effect of this situation on the town, how bad situations can create good outcomes.
Oil Drilling in Alaskan nature reserves.
Different types of whales.
How media can help/hurt situations
What is a Pressure Ridge
Animal Testing (pros and cons)
This could even be a really interesting research project, or essay.
Whale Size comparison (to each other and humans)
This is the one thing that Hanna stopped the movie for, and really wanted to dig into. She was amazed how much bigger the whales were compared to humans. This is another project we’re going to do. I’ve got a fun idea to compare them, so stay tuned.
The effect of commercial fishing on whales.
The expectations of the future (in 1988) and how they are today.
In the movie the conservationist makes many predictions of what the world will be like in 20 years… that time has come and gone. It would be a fun project to dig into some of the predictions she made and see if they came true, or not.
Geography: Point Barrow/Prudoe Bay
The whales are trapped in Point Barrow, and the hover barge is coming from Prudoe Bay.
Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev
You could even get into Perestroika and glasnost
Raising the US and USSR flags together.
There is a point in time where the two work together, and the Soviets raise both flags together. It’s a very touching moment, having lived through that time period. It would be a wonderful place to start discussing the meaning of it, and why it was a powerful gesture.
We are going to learn some Russian. I took Russian in high school (and went to the Soviet Union my junior year… yes, totally aging myself with the Soviet Union reference!)
Doing your job vs. doing what is right.
Toward the end the cameraman makes a decision… which could be a great spark for conversation.
It is referenced in the movie, and would be worth learning about and how that tragedy changed the way we think about oil, pipelines etc (or if it did at all).
We are also adding some books to the mix. We are reading aloud Stranded by Ben Mikaelson, which is turning into an extremely captivating book!
We picked up some Eye Witness books relevant to the topics (as well as other things we’re planning to learn more about). We are IN LOVE with these eye witness books!! We keep them in the car and whenever we go somewhere we dig in. They are so easy to read, but filled with interesting information.
There you have it… homeschooling with movies. We are still digging around in the ocean, and whales and I think our next movie is going to be Titanic. Do you use movies as a “spine” for your homeschool? Join us in my secular, relaxed eclectic homeschooling with older kids group and tell us all about it!