Finding The Science In The Film Finding Nemo

One of the most beautifully animated films in cinematic history, Finding Nemo won over crowds and critics alike. With its heart-warming tale, detailed underwater scenery and cast of endlessly entertaining characters, this film has a special place in households around the world. But have you ever thought about bringing it into the science classroom?

Finding movies to show in a science class can be challenging; often you can only rely on short snippets from films, or on television programs like “Bill Nye the Science Guy” or “MythBusters”. Whether you’re looking for a multi-period lesson or for a reward movie to celebrate, Finding Nemo can fit the bill. It can be used to jump-start the natural interest that children have in ocean life, coral reefs, and marine biology.

This movie is one of the most curriculum-flexible films you can use. Screen it before, during or after a unit on marine biology. Show it during environmental science to discuss habitats and human impact. Finding Nemo is great for students of all ages, from age 8 to 18.

Older students who have finished a unit on marine life or have just studied the phenomenon of symbiosis, can take notes during (or after) the film on the types of marine life and scientific concepts seen in the film. There are dozens of types of marine life and biological concepts shown in the film, including: algae, anemone, atoll, camouflage, barrier reef, budding, calcium carbonate, clownfish, colony, commensal relationship, coral bleaching, crepuscular, diurnal, East Australian Current, equator, eyespots, food chain, fringing reef, habitat, lagoon, limestone, Loggerhead sea turtles, nocturnal, Pacific blue tang phytoplankton, polyps, predator, prey, reef, scavenger, sperm, symbiosis, symbiotic relationship, zooplankton, and zooxanthellae.

Have students compare and contrast the physical appearance of the creatures in the film and their real-life counterparts. How accurate were the animators? Students can also write a fun essay comparing and contrasting a coral reef to a city. Both have systems for power sources, waste management, housing, construction, health, and even advertising!

And then there is the analogy of a coral reef to a city. Who are the protectors? Who are the garbage men? Who builds? Who destroys?

Discussion questions can include:

– Give a description of three symbiotic relationships between animals on a coral reef.What does it mean when an animal is at the top of its food chain?

– When are predators more active? At dusk, at midday, in the night or in the morning? Why is this? “Diurnal” “Octurnal” What’s the difference?

– How could Nemo have avoided all problems that he caused himself and his father? Hint: it’s about obeying your parents?

– Name the largest non-human animal made structure in the world?

Welcoming Finding Nemo into your classroom can turn a routine marine biology lesson into an engrossing, and fun, experience for students of any age!