SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Father/Son; Friendship; Courage.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — G; Animated Drama; 2003; 100 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com. For children 8 – 12 and for information relating to coral reefs and the fish shown in the movie, see the Learning Guide to this film.
Nemo, a young clown fish, strays from the safety of his anemone on the Great Barrier Reef and is captured by a diver. Placed in a dentist’s aquarium in an office with an ocean view, he finds a group of fish with an escape plan. Meanwhile, Nemo’s father searches for his son, meeting a number of ocean creatures along the way.
This movie is entertaining and touching for both children and adults. “Finding Nemo” can be used to jump start the natural interest that children have in ocean life, coral reefs, and marine biology. It also teaches lessons about friendship, obeying parents, and avoiding dangerous situations.
A scene showing an intense shark chase may frighten younger viewers. Fast forward through this scene if necessary.
clown fish, sea turtle, shark, coral reef, octopus, blowfish, pelican, crab, seagull, jellyfish, diver, scuba, boat, journey, dentist, tank, ocean, anemone, Australia, whale.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Which character was your favorite? — If you could have any of the characters in the movie as a friend, which would you choose? — Why is that?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
How did Nemo escape from the aquarium?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
Name some of the creatures Marlin met on his journey.
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. How did Nemo get into all that trouble? Talking About It — The most important thing to learn from this movie is that children often do not understand the risks of their actions and that parents often do understand those risks. Kids who disobey often run into unexpected, just like little Nemo.
→ 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. Name some of the characters in the movie who worked together and by working together were able to do something that they could not do alone. Talking About It — When Marlin is looking for Nemo, he gets help from Dory and he is also helped by Nigel (the pelican) and Crush and Squirt (the sea turtles). Without their help he could never have found his son. Nemo’s escape from the aquarium is a joint effort with all of his friends in the tank. Nemo returns the favor by helping them to escape.
→ You can 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.
3. Did Dory have a responsibility to help Marlin find Nemo? Talking About It — No, she didn’t. But she helped him anyway. Ask your child why he or she thinks Dory did so much for Marlin, a fish she didn’t even know. Talk about how she became Marlin’s friend and then demonstrated her friendship by always being there for him, encouraging him, and helping him find Nemo, without ever being asked. Tell children that they, too, can be this kind of friend.
→ Don’t try to cover everything contained in this Guide. If you allow your child to watch 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. Nemo was born with one fin that looks different from his other fin. He calls it his “lucky fin”. Dory has a memory problem and forgets things that have just happened. In the real world, some people might call these things “disabilities”. Talking About It — Lots of kids might look or talk differently than us, but they are still kids and can still be our friends. It’s important to treat everyone with respect and kindness no matter who they are. How would we want to be treated if we were they?
→ The Golden Rule is basic to morality and ethics. Here is a modern formulation of the Rule. Have your child memorize this or another version. Repeat it to your child often when a decision about how to act must be made: “In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you.” Show your child how to apply it in his or her own life. Let your child see you apply the Rule in decisions that you make.)
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. Color sea creatures — Print out some blank coloring sheets of various fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. Together, color them with your child. Cut some seaweed out of green paper, and some waves out of blue paper. Tape or tack these cut-outs to a bedroom wall or window, making a giant pretend aquarium.
2. Play “Finding Nemo” — This is like the game “Marco Polo”. Have your child hide somewhere in the yard, or in the house. Call out “Finding!” and have him or her respond “Nemo”. Then switch roles. See who can find the other the fastest. (For another twist to the game, your child can move about within a defined area as you search for him or her with your eyes closed. This works best in a large, open area, like a yard or park. You can also play this game in a swimming pool, as you would play “Marco Polo”.)
3. Water Wonders — If you are near to a lake, ocean or river, pay a visit. Pack a picnic, and together with your child, explore the water world. Look for crabs, shells, driftwood, clams or fish. Bring along a waterproof disposable camera, and let your child take all of the pictures of the creatures he or she finds. Because it’s waterproof, he or she can even hop into the water and snap some photos!
4. Visit some websites about marine life — Ask your child about his or her favorite fish or creature, and talk about yours. Find pictures together and compare them.
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 Nemo and his friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a bedtime story that you can read to your child.
Hi. My name is Johnny. This story is about my first day back at school after Christmas vacation. There was a lot of trouble that day, and, wouldn’t you know it, the trouble started because of a friend.
Louise sits next to me in class. She’s got brown hair that she wears in a pony tail and her eyes are brown, too. They glitter when she talks. You’d think she’d be tall, because she’s the fastest runner in our grade, but she isn’t. She’s just average size and — she likes to wear pink socks. But the most interesting thing about Louise is what she talks about; and that’s what started the ball rolling.
Not everyone likes Louise, but I do. . . . No, no, not in the gooey way that older guys like girls or a dad likes a mom. She’s not my girlfriend. It’s just that she talks about interesting things.
So, it’s the first day after Christmas vacation. The first bell is about to ring and the whole class is waiting outside the room. (Mr. Miller, our teacher, keeps the door shut until after the first bell.)
So, I go up to Louise; she’s gotten tanned over the vacation, “Hi, Louise.”
“So, what’d you do for Christmas?” I say.
“We went to Australia, to the Great Barrier Reef.”
“Oh, yeah, I know what that is.” I decide to sound superior. “You didn’t see Nemo, did you?”
“Actually, I saw lots of Nemos. There are tons of them and they all look the same. They’re just as orange as Nemo is in the movie and they all stay real close to their anemones. Johnny, you should see these anemones. They’re the most beautiful things you can imagine. They have these pale white tentacles, you know, they stick out like fingers but there are hundreds on each anemone and they wave in the water.”
“Were you under water close enough to see them?
“No, we were snorkeling, you know, where you float on top of the water and have a mask. You can look down all you want cause you breathe through a tube that sticks up out of the water. The ocean’s clear and it’s not deep at all. Sometimes the big corals are so close that you have to be careful not to scrape yourself.”
“Did you catch any fish, like the diver catches Nemo in the movie?”
“No way, it’s not allowed where we were. And besides, the fish stay close to the anemone and dart inside if you go near them. The tips of the anemone, the tentacles — they sting if you touch them. No one goes after a fish that’s inside one of those things.
“That’s right, I remember, the anemones have a poison to protect them, but it doesn’t hurt the . . . What do they call those fish, the Nemo fish, I forgot?”
“Clown fish, cause they look like a clown with the orange color and the big black circle.”
The first bell rings and Mr. Miller opens the door. He stands just inside the room, saying hello to each student as we come in. But my attention is on Louise and her trip.
“Now I remember, yeah . . . clown fish. So, what else did you see . . . . “
“Happy New Year you two. I see you’re excited to share about the vacation.” Mr. Miller says. “Remember, no talking after the second bell rings. We’ve got a lot to do.”
Louise and I sit down at our desks and I ask, “So, how many of these clown fish did you see?”
“Weren’t you scared out there in the ocean?”
“No, my dad swam right beside me and held my hand the whole time.”
“Wasn’t it too cold to go swimming? Did you have to wear one of those heavy suits that cover you all over?”
“No, it was summer and really hot. Australia’s in the southern half of the world so when it’s our winter, it’s their summer.”
“What else did you see?”
“I saw big giant sea turtles, three of them as big as this.” She stretches her arms straight out from the sides of her body.
“Did you see any sharks?”
“No. No, sharks. But we saw one of those fish cleaning stations.”
The second bell rings. Mr. Miller starts to say something, but I’m not listening.
“What do you mean a fish cleaning station?” I whisper, quietly I think.
Louise — very softly — says, “They’re these little fish that like to eat something on the skin of . . . .”
“Johnny, Louise! I thought I told you not to talk. This is your warning. Any more misbehavior and we’ll have a discussion with your mothers after school.” Louise widens her eyes and grins just a little. She puts a finger to her mouth making the sign that means, “Shshsh”.
But my mind’s abuzz. What’s this about fish cleaning stations? What do the little fish like to eat? Don’t the big fish just gobble them up? I just have to find out about this. Then I realize that I won’t get to talk to Louise until lunch, and the guys’ll tease me because boys never talk to girls at lunch.
This is not good. My solution is to write a note and pass it to Louise when Mr. Miller isn’t looking.
So, I write the note on a piece of notebook paper, “Tell me about the cleaning stations. What did the little fish eat?” I fold the paper twice over and when Mr. Miller is talking to students at the other side of the room, I pass it to Louise. She reads the note, glances up at Mr. Miller, who’s still talking to the other kids, and starts to write me back.
Well, that guy must have eyes in the back of his head and be able to transport himself across the room like magic. The next thing you know, Mr. Miller is standing next to Louise’s desk and she’s still writing back to me.
“Louise, what are you doing?” I can’t describe the look on her face. She has to answer but she doesn’t want to give me away.
I’ve got to act quickly. “It’s my fault, Mr. Miller. I asked her a question.” The whole class turns in their seats and looks at me.
“You guys sure aren’t starting the New Year right.” Mr. Miller says. “Johnny, you were warned once. Tell me why we shouldn’t talk to your mom after school.”
It’s like the world stops. I have to say something but I don’t know what to say. I could say that my dog died over the weekend but my dog is fine and if mother found out I lied, she’d be disappointed and really mad. There’s only one thing to do, tell the truth and then Mr. Miller will tell my mom that I’d been acting up in class. And anyway, maybe Mr. Miller is interested in fish cleaning stations. So, I say, “Well, she went to the Great Barrier Reef for Christmas and she was just going to tell me about fish cleaning stations in the ocean. But then the second bell rang . . . and I just had to know about those fish cleaning stations.”
A few of the kids in the class start to giggle. I look up at Mr. Miller and he’s trying to suppress a smile. “Who knows about fish cleaning stations?” he asks the class.
Louise raises her hand and the class spends the next ten minutes listening to Louise tell about how some fish get cleaned in the ocean by other fish and her trip to the Great Barrier Reef. The best part is that Mr. Miller forgets all about talking to my mom after school.
And that’s what happened on the first day back at school after Christmas vacation. The End.
[After hearing this story, children will probably want to know more about fish cleaning stations. Here are a few facts. Several types of fish clean the bodies of other fish, eating parasites and dead scales. The fish who do the cleaning get a meal and the other fish stay clean and healthy. Small fish called the cleaning wrasses are visited by other fish who allow them to clean all over their bodies, into their mouths, and even in their gills. Sometimes, fish line up at “cleaning stations” waiting to be cleaned by the wrasses. This occurs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. You can get pictures of fish getting cleaned on Wikipedia at Wikipedia article on Fish Cleaning Stations.]
BRIDGES TO READING
There are thousands of books on fish and the ocean, for all reading levels. Visit your local library. Books can be read aloud to children or advanced readers can read the books themselves. We suggest the following: Coral Reef Animals by Francine Galko, 2003, part of the Animals in their Habitats series; It Could Still Be Coral by Allan Fowler, 1996, part of the Rookie Read About Science series; Fish Wish by Bob Barner, 2000; Coral Reef Hunters by Erica Ethan and Marie Bearanger, 1997, part of the Colors of the Sea series; Old Shell, New Shell by Helen Ward, 2002; Corals by Lynn M. Stone, 2003, part of the Science Under the Sea Series, this book contains an excellent description of coral as a species; Coral Reefs by Sylvia Earle, published by National Geographic and illustrated by Bonnie Matthews, is an excellent introduction to life on a coral reef.