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Environmental Films That Will Inspire Your Students

written by: JenniferB•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 6/30/2009

Whether it’s a last minute lesson plan, an educational tool or a reward for your students, all teachers occasionally show a film in the classroom. Consider these three outstanding nature films for your next feature flick!

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    Films That Inspire

    Whether it’s a last minute lesson plan, an educational tool or a reward for your students, all teachers occasionally show a film in the classroom. Regardless of reason, films are a great opportunity to inspire a bit of environmentalism among your students. Show your students a nature documentary and watch their eyes grow wide as they are captivated by the gorgeous scenery and amazing animal footage of these amazing films.

    Planet Earth

    My students were glued to the screen when I played the Planet Earth series as a part of my biology curriculum. Planet Earth features nature cinematography at its very best, with incredible vistas of mountain ranges, lakes, oceans, caves, and other geographic features all over the world. This widely acclaimed and award-winning series from the BBC is the quintessential wildlife documentary as each episode explores a different ecosystem explaining the climate, plants, animals and adaptations associated with it. For example, in the Mountains episode, the series features animals such as snow leopards and discuss how they have adapted to living at high-altitude. Whether it’s a unit on ecosystems or biodiversity, watching Planet Earth provides a lesson plan that is packed with adventure, travel and science wrapped into one.

    Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

    Since Charles Darwin first sailed to and studied the Galapagos Islands, describing the incredible diversity of plants and animals, this archipelago has been famous among scientists and travelers alike. This BBC documentary provides a beautiful inside look at the wildlife including the islands' famous tortoises in addition to the gorgeous flora, fauna and active volcanoes. It even travels underwater to profile the amazing array of fish and other aquatic life in this incredible ecosystem.

    Africa: The Serengeti

    Traveling a bit further east, you can take your students to explore Africa. First featured as an IMAX film, this feature is 40 minutes long – perfect for a lesson plan on the African plains ecosystem. It does a terrific job of showing how the seasons change in the Serengeti in addition to a massive annual migration of millions of wildebeests that travel hundreds of miles across the plains to escape drought every year. Of course, your students will be captivated by the other fauna, including all of the Africa favorites: cheetahs, lions, elephants and more.

    Whether it’s for enjoyment or even if there’s an assignment attached, these films will inspire your students to think about the life beyond the schoolyard.