In my recent post on 7 Super Helpful Tips for New Science Teachers, one of my suggestions was:
When you’re doing your long-term planning for the year, build in opportunities that will give you a bit of a break. For example, I like to include a documentary in each unit.
Movies are not a waste of time (when selected and used properly) and can be a way to learn, anchor, and extend knowledge. They also have the added bonus of very little prep for the teacher!
So I thought that I’d do a little bit of extra work for you here and highlight a few of my favorite movies and when I use them:
Cracking Your Genetics Code: A great documentary that gives an overview of DNA and the power of genotyping and genomics in terms of personalized medicine. It follows multiple people and shows how their lives have been affected by genetic disease and potential treatments. I show this when I teach a unit on molecular biology but it could go in an intro to genetics unit as well.
What Darwin Never Knew: The perfect way to connect genetics with evolution. I use this to begin the evolution unit after having taught genetics. It provides history of Charles Darwin and the Galapagos and also explores several contemporary scientists and their work including Neil Shubin’s Tiktaalik. It becomes an anchor throughout our unit that can be referred back to regularly.
The Biggest Little Farm: A really interesting and compelling documentary that follows a couple who purchase a farm and work over 7 years to transform its arid landscape into a working farm and biodiverse habitat. A super engaging addition to an ecosystems unit!
Beyond the Elements – Life: This is a very interesting journey through areas where chemistry and biology overlap. New research regarding photosynthesis is explored as well as the atmosphere and ozone, the four macromolecules, polarity (and how soap works), and research on directed evolution. Definitely useful for both Biology and Chemistry classes! Very cool!
Beyond the Elements – Reactions: This documentary looks at chemical reactions involved in fire, making concrete, fertilizer (Haber process), explosives, hot peppers, and venom and its uses in medicine. I’m planning to show it at the end of our reactions unit.
Looking for Life on Mars: This is the perfect way to show your students what scientists are up to in the Perseverance Rover Mission. It addresses why we are exploring Mars, how what we’ve learned previously has shaped this mission, and the incredible research and technology that has gone into the journey of Perseverance. This could be connected to any science class!
Explore the Science of the Magical Northern Lights: A very interesting episode of The Nature of Things that follows scientists who look at why they form, the composition of the atmosphere and the spectrum of the aurora, citizen science opportunities, experiments to determine the connection of X-rays with the pulsation of lights, and more. A super cool addition to a physics unit on light! There is also a nice segment on Indigenous people and their beliefs about the lights.
Those are just a few of my faves!
If you are interested in exactly how I show movies in my class so that we can make the most of them, check out my blog post on The Proven Blueprint to Using Movies in the Science Classroom.
You might also want to grab my freebie here for “The Best Science Movies for the Classroom: A Breakdown by Topic.”
That’s it for now! What are some of your favorite movies to use in the classroom? I’d love for you to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending me a DM on IG!
Interested in other helpful Back to School ideas? Check out:
7 Super Helpful Tips for New Science Teachers
Classroom Management Series #3: Tips for Reacting in the Moment
Classroom Management Series #2: Tips for Building Relationships
Classroom Management Series #1: Tips for Creating Systems
The #1 Things Teachers Wish They Learned in Teachers College
How to Guarantee that Your Students Will Remember What They Learn
The Proven Blueprint to Using Movies in the Science Classroom
Using YouTube for a Low-Prep Bellringer
My Favorite Way to Start the Science School Year