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As a mom, a Girl Scout leader, and a nature lover, I find Earth Day to be a good time to do a little reality check: Am I teaching my kids to take care of our environment? Am I teaching them to just get outside and appreciate it? I really do want them to grow up appreciating this amazing planet.
We live at the bottom of the Rocky Mountains, and I think they get sick of me telling them, "People save up for years to come stand where you're standing right now." But I hope they get that. I hope they always look at this world with awe.
I thought I'd follow up last year's post on great books to read on Earth Day with a post on good movies to watch. Every Friday night, we make breakfast for dinner, spread blankets on the floor, and have a movie night while we eat. It's tradition. If you're looking for a Friday night movie suggestion, how about one of these with an environmental theme?
Set on New Zealand's North Island, Whale Rider shows life in a present-day Maori tribe. Pai knows her destiny is to become the tribe's leader, but faces resistance because she's a girl. But the movie also shows the relationship between the tribe and nature, and Pai's own place in it. The movie will give you lots to talk over with your older children (it is rated PG-13, so I'd hold off with younger kids.) Just a beautiful movie that will leave you thinking for days.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Danny DeVito voices the Lorax, a grumpy but lovable creature who speaks for the trees in this adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book. The soundtrack to this wacky movie is one of our favorites.
March of the Penguins
Morgan Freeman narrates this documentary on the harrowing journey emperor penguins make -- from warmer climes to the freezing Antarctic -- in order to mate. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll leave with an amazing respect for these fellow parents (and if you're anything like me, you'll get teary realizing the lengths they go through for their babies, just like we do.) Great movie for kids and adults.
From the same studio that made March of the Penguins. Queen Latifah narrates the stories of Nanu the polar bear and Seela the walrus pup as they struggle to survive and grow in the Arctic.
Anything by Disneynature Films
I'd start with "Earth," but all of these movies are fantastic and show how different species survive in their environments. There's a new film out this year -- Born in China -- about pandas that I really want to see as well.
Although Mumble the penguin can't find his "heart song" -- the unique noise each penguin makes to attract a mate -- he's a pretty awesome dancer. The movie also touches on how humans have depleted the penguins' food supply, and could lead to a good discussion with kids on how our actions affect others. (Also? Another amazing soundtrack!) Bonus pick: Sequel Happy Feet Two returns with a plot involving melting icebergs that endanger the penguins.
Set in the future, Wall-E shows a garbage-strewn planet earth, where a sanitation robot (WALL-E himself) lives alone until the arrival of a fascinating new girl robot (EVE). But can WALL-E and EVE help the humans, who now orbit Earth in a spacecraft, to return to their planet and take care of it properly this time?
Fly Away Home
Amy, a 13-year-old in New Zealand, is sent to live with her father in Canada after a car crash kills her mother. While wandering through marshes near her new home, Amy discovers goose eggs left behind when developers accidentally kill the mother goose. Amy raises the goslings herself, teaches them to fly, and helps them migrate with the rest of the Canadian geese. Rated PG, so make sure your child can handle the more intense moments.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Fairies discover humans are cutting down all the trees in their forest. One fairy, Crysta, shrinks a human boy to save him from being hit by a tree being felled, and teaches him about the importance of saving her forest.
Based on a true story. In 1988 a reporter in Barrow, Alaska, discovers a family of gray whales trapped offshore. Realizing this could be his big break, he reports the story, which gets picked up by press across the country. Organizations from Greenpeace to oil companies to the Soviet Union must work together to save the whales. (Note: There is a death that might upset younger children. The movie is rated PG.)
Way back in the '40's, Walt Disney made a film that took a hard look at man's relationship with the natural world, and at his capacity to destroy it. From Bambi's mom being shot (spoiler alert) to the fire at the end of the movie, Man doesn't come across very well in this one.
Based on the Carl Hiaasen book, the movie follows three kids trying to thwart a corporation that's endangering owls. The kids sabotage the company's construction site, and hilarity ensues. Rated PG.
Photo credits: istock
For more kids' activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.
This post was originally published in April, 2017.
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