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Educational entertainment: Movies generate sustainability discussions for kids

Movies geared toward children are often a mindless stream of colorful images, but sometimes they have a deeper meaning. Keeping your kids entertained while educating them on some of the environmental problems facing our planet is a win-win. These family friendly movies are entertaining, but they can also help you start a conversation about sustainability with your kids. For your next family movie night, grab your kids, pop some popcorn and tune into these movies with a message.

Bambi (1942)

First off, the movie Bambi is notable for its visual portrayal of nature and the compelling story surrounding a young fawn. Bambi and his friends learn to survive as they explore the forest around them. Challenges arise as hunters threaten the area and a forest fire destroys their home. Forest conservation isn’t usually a family topic of discussion, but it needs to be. In fact, Bambi has been introducing this subject to young audiences for generations. Its message continues to come across loud and clear as children realize the importance of preserving our natural landscape.

Happy Feet (2006)

Secondly, Happy Feet follows the story of Mumble the dancing penguin in Antarctica. The movie’s main message focuses on being unique and accepting each other’s differences, but there are clear ties to environmental issues. Other penguins blame Mumble for a shortage of fish in the ocean. Lovelace, one of the prominent penguins in the film, is choked by six-pack plastic rings. These subtle references to overfishing and pollution don’t interrupt the plot, but they open the door to conversations with your kids about environmental issues. The film’s sequel, Happy Feet Two, also includes subliminal climate change messages.

Over the Hedge (2006)

Over the Hedge is a wacky cartoon film that begins with animals waking up from hibernation to realize that their land has been developed into a suburban neighborhood. Squirrels, turtles, possums and other woodland creatures are lead by a quirky raccoon as they adjust to their new surroundings. The neighboring humans are evaluated on their eating habits, modes of transportation and garbage collection from the perspective of these furry forest animals. Urban sprawl is clearly the main theme throughout this movie, but at its core Over the Hedge is a light-hearted family film.

WALL-E (2008)

WALL-E the lovable robot lives 700 years in the future. Earth is a deserted trash pile, and all humans have relocated to outer space. WALL-E roams through the junk, compressing garbage until he meets EVE. EVE evaluates vegetation on other planets, looking for signs of life and growth. The two robots work together to lead people back to earth to clean up their planet. The storyline in WALL-E ties into sustainability themes throughout, while engaging audience members in an out of this world adventure.

Cars 2 (2011)

Lightning McQueen and Mater rejoin a cast of lovable characters in Cars 2 as they take on a new mission. While McQueen races international opponents in the World Grand Prix circuit, Mater chases down big oil company villains. The film promotes alternative fuel sources and fuels discussions about the damaging consequences of traditional oil production. Kids will love the high-speed chases and action-filled plot, and parents will appreciate the movie’s clean energy and sustainability undertones.

The Lorax (2012)

Lastly, the zany magic of Dr. Seuss comes alive in The Lorax. Silly characters with colorful animation tackle real-world environmental issues like deforestation and pollution. Behind all the fun, there are a lot of valuable lessons for families to note. The Lorax teaches us to treasure natural beauty and remember that our actions have consequences for the environment. While touching on some serious sustainability concerns, the characters continue to promote a message of hope for the future.

Movies are an entertaining way for your family to bond over wacky adventures and open discussions about sustainable lifestyles. While watching these movies, kids will learn about important environmental issues, whether they realize it or not. Pop some popcorn and plop onto your sofa, the movie’s about to start.