SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: The Environment; Romantic Relationships; Taking Care of Yourself.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Caring; Responsibility
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — G; Animated; 2008; 98 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
The time is centuries into the future and the scene is the Earth, a desolate, garbage strewn no-mans land. Nothing green or animate is visible. People abandoned the planet long ago, opting for life on a gigantic space ship until conditions on Earth become habitable again. Wall-E is a robot who works alone compacting and stacking the mountains of rubbish that mankind left behind. By chance it finds a small green sprout.
A drone named Eve has been sent from the spaceship to evaluate conditions on Earth. Wall-E immediately falls in love with Eve and offers the plant in an attempt to impress it. Controlled by its mission, Eve automatically takes the plant back to the spaceship and the lovesick Wall-E goes along for the ride. The people they encounter on the spaceship have become infantilized blobs who do nothing but watch entertainment all day. They have almost lost the ability to move. The arrival of Wall-E and Eve sets in motion a chain of events which allow the humans to save themselves and Wall-E to get its girl.
“Wall-E” is a gorgeous, tender film, that shows the importance of taking care of our planet and the dangers of relying on technology.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Do you have any good friends like the people in the spaceship who are always watching screens and never play outside?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning. Talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
What was the cutest thing about Wall-E?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
What was it about Eve that made Wall-E fall in love with her? Is there any way to know?
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. Why did the humans have to leave the Earth?
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
2. Who were Wall-E’s friends? Talking About It — Wall-E’s friends were the cockroach, the plant and the characters from the movies that he watched.
3. What do you think will happen after the movie ends? What will the humans do when they return to Earth? What will life be like for Wall-E and Eve? Talking About It — Watch the closing credit sequence. It not only follows the humans for some time, but it also takes you through the evolution of art!
→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.
4. Is there any possibility that the real Earth will suffer the fate that the Earth shown in the movie suffered? Talking About It — Some very smart people believe that unless we all do our part to save the environment, that we will ruin the Earth.
While there’s nothing objectionable for younger children in this movie, it is not fast paced. Young children might get restless.
ACTIVITIES FOR GROWTH
1. Working Together to Save the Earth — Create a family project that will help the environment in which your child can play an active role. It can be working with a local community group to pick up trash or clean up a park. It can be collecting all the worn out batteries in the house and taking them to a recycling center. The complexity of the project should depend upon the ability and interests of your child. It should be a project that has identifiable results that can be seen by your child and something that the family can do regularly for an indefinite period. Explain to your child that this is only one of many ways we have to act to save the planet and that as he or she gets older, there will be more opportunities to make choices that help save the planet. For project ideas, look online or at your local library for ways that children can help save the Earth.
2. Earth Day Every Day! — Explain to your child that as we saw in Wall-E, throwing everything away, wasting materials, and buying items with lots of packaging means lots and lots of garbage. We can also, simply, buy less. We can conserve when we turn out the lights when we leave a room, turn off the water while we brush our teeth, take reusable cloth shopping bags to the market, or don’t flush the toilet every time we pee. When the family takes an action that helps the environment or refrains from doing something that would hurt the environment, even the little things described in the preceding sentence, always explain to your child what you are doing and why.
3. Build-A-Bot — Gather some old cardboard boxes, empty paper towel rolls, newspaper and other supplies (like scissors, staples, tape, etc). If you use aluminum foil in your kitchen, you can clean it and save it for use with this project. If you have large enough boxes, cut holes big enough for your child’s arms and head, and work together to create a robot costume. Stack a smaller box on top of the larger box and cut eye and mouth holes. A metal colander makes a great robot hat, and some grey pants and shirts can add to the robot look. You can glue or tape the used aluminum foil to the boxes, or have your child color them. If you only have smaller boxes, you can make a toy robot rather than a costume. Glue or staple boxes together and decorate. Because the boxes are light, you can even attach your robot to the wall!
Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for the characters in the movie. The incidents in your stories should explore the themes of the movie.
Here is a bedtime story about that you can read to your child that expands upon some of the themes of the movie.
Amanda was a seven-year-old girl, who lived with her mom, her dad and her older brother Matt in a cottage by the side of the road. Everyone in the family had brown eyes, except Amanda, whose eyes were a glistening green, with specks of blue and amber. Her mom always said that Amanda’s eyes looked like little Earths, seen from far, far away. Her brother gave her the nickname “Earth Eyes”, which the rest of the family took up. Amanda loved the name and liked to pretend that when she closed her eyes to sleep, the rest of the world went dark and everybody got to take a nap.
Amanda’s brother was in high school, while Amanda was only in third grade. Amanda thought her older brother was the best person in the world. Sometimes he would take her to their local theater to see the newest kid’s movie. They would share a popcorn, and if things got a little scary onscreen, Amanda would hold his hand and squeeze her eyes shut, just peeking out a little bit between her eyelashes.
One rainy Saturday, Matt took Amanda to see “Wall-E” with his friend Sam. Amanda loved the movie, and Matt seemed to enjoy it, too. But something was bothering Amanda. “Could we ever really make our planet that messy?” Amanda asked herself this question again and again. The idea scared her a little.
As they left the theater,lightning flashed, thunder boomed and the rain came down in torrents. “Why don’t you wait here with Matt,” said Sam, “I’ll get the care and that way we don’t all have to get wet.”
“Sounds good, Sam,” said Matt, as he tossed Sam the keys. “We’ll meet you at the curb.”
Sam popped open his umbrella, took a deep breath, and ran into the rain. Amanda started splashing in a small puddle that was forming by her foot. She and Matt waited under the marquee, huddled in a corner, trying to keep warm and dry. Amanda was watching the raindrops plop around her, trying to follow one single drop’s journey from the sky to the cement. Suddenly there was a slight “whooshing” sound, and Amanda noticed that all the rain in the gutter that ran along the top of the theater was speeding down a drain pipe and coming out onto the street. “It looks like a baby river!” she said, pointing at the water running along the curb. Matt smiled and nodded, peering around for Sam and the car.
Amanda watched the baby river and noticed that a paper cup was now floating it in. She wondered where the cup came from. Behind the cup was a wrapper from a candy bar. Then some cigarette butts. Then a broken CD. There was even a sock! She looked by her shoes and saw pink and blue pieces of gum stuck all over the ground. Looking up, she noticed a plastic shopping bag whipping around in the branches of a tree, and napkins scattered all over the parking lot.
Amanda tugged on Matt’s sleeve, and was about to show him all the garbage when Sam pulled up next to the curb. “Come on, ‘Manda!” shouted Matt as he grabbed her hand. They jumped into the car, slammed the doors, buckled up, and took off.
Matt and Sam thought that Amanda seemed a little quiet on the way home. “Everything okay back there, Earth Eyes? Didn’t you like the movie?” Sam asked.
Amanda sighed. “No, I loved the movie. I am just wondering. . . is our planet going to end up like that? Is that going to happen to us?”
Matt and Sam looked at each other, unsure of what to say. “We should talk about this at dinner tonight, with Mom and Dad,” Sam finally said.
Amanda helped her parents with dinner, setting the table. As she put a paper napkin on each plate, she couldn’t help but be reminded of the soggy, dirty paper napkins she’d seen in the parking lot. Her mom asked her to help with the salad, and as Amanda threw away the plastic bag from the salad, and the smaller plastic bags from the yummy toppings inside, she thought about that shopping bag stuck in the tree.
Finally, dinner was ready, and they all started to dig in. Sam cleared his throat and said, “Amanda asked a really great question in the car and I think we should all talk about it together.” Everyone turned toward Amanda. She looked upset, her green eyes full of worry.
“Well, in ‘Wall-E’, the planet gets so messy that everyone has to leave. And when we were waiting to leave after the movie, I saw garbage everywhere. And, I just, well, I am just afraid that maybe someday this will really happen. Will it? Will we have to leave Earth?” Amanda sounded nervous.
“That is a good question,” her dad said, “And first of all, you don’t have to be scared.” He wiped his mouth with the paper napkin.
Her mom snatched the napkin away and held it up. “But there are things we can be doing to prevent something bad from happening…like using reusable fabric napkins from now on!”
The family talked about the different ways that they waste. Sam pointed out that he and Matt often leave their bedroom light on, even after they’ve left, wasting lots of electricity. Their mom and dad talked about how when they charge their cell phones, they leave their chargers plugged into the wall even if the phone isn’t attached. “That drains energy, too,” said Matt.
Amanda talked about water waste, something she’d learned in school. “We should all take shorter showers, and remember to turn the water off when we’re brushing our teeth or shaving.” Her dad said, “And what about all of those bottles of water we use when we go to your soccer games, or out to the beach? That wastes plastic. We should each get a reusable metal water bottle.” “Speaking of reusable, I need to start bringing canvas bags with me when I go grocery shopping,” said Amanda’s mom. “If I don’t keep them with me in the car, I forget about them, and I wind up taking home lots of brand new plastic bags that I just throw away.”
The conversation went on long after they had finished eating. After they had cleared the table, they sat down and typed out a list of all the different things they could do to be less wasteful. Buy products that have less packaging. When coloring pictures or printing from the computer, use both sides of the paper. Buy recycled paper towels and toilet paper. Read up on what they could recycle in their town and post a sign by their recycling bins to make sure that they recycled everything they could. They decided to start a composting bin in their backyard, instead of throwing away food waste. After they made the list, they emailed it to all of their family members, hoping to inspire them all.
That night, as Amanda was tucked into bed, her mom brushed the hair from her forehead and gave her a gentle kiss. “My little girl, the world in her eyes.” Amanda smiled, but something was still bugging her.
“Mom, but what if it’s not enough? What if me using less paper or less water isn’t enough?” Amanda asked sadly.
“Well, it won’t be enough,” her mom said matter-of-factly. Amanda’s green eyes widened. “But look at what you have done. You are one person, who has made a choice to live in an Earth-friendly way. But you are also one person who has inspired me, your dad, your brothers and your sisters, to do it too. And we’ve emailed all of our aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas. And what if they tell their friends? And their friends tell their friends, and then share it with their families? Then, suddenly, the decisions you’ve made have spread from one person, to five, to twenty, to one hundred people. And it will keep going, and going. And that, my little Earth Eyes, will make a difference and it will be a great thing. But there’s still more to do. We have to make sure our government and all the businesses large and small act in Earth friendly ways. But that’s something for another day.”
Amanda smiled. Her mom kissed her forehead once more, and got up to leave. “You can unplug my night light tonight, Mom,” Amanda said. Her mom winked and set the night light on her dresser. She blew a kiss to Amanda and slipped out of the bedroom, quietly shutting the door.
Amanda felt her eyelids getting heavy, and imagined the whole world getting dark as she closed her eyes. “Let’s all work together,” she said out loud in a sleepy voice, to no one in particular, “Let’s all work together and let’s protect our little Earth.”