Monday, April 25, 2011

Free Education Guides for African Cats

Warning: Lots of gushing ahead.

Yesterday, our family finally went to see African Cats. Now, you know I am a former zoo keeper, right? And my husband is still in the field. So we are pretty critical when it comes to animal movies. Neither one of us is an easy audience when it comes to nature films. But I have to say, that this movie was beautiful. I couldn't get over the footage. Almost each frame could have been frozen and sold as a portrait of nature.

The film is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, and he does an incredible job. I was worried that the story line would be too anthropomorphic (too "humanlike"), and it does, in fact, revolve around two families - a lone cheetah mother with 5 cubs and a pride of lions. But the story line does exactly what I imagine Disney wants: It provides a way for regular people, far removed from the wild African savanna, to emotionally connect with nature. My children were completely engrossed by the movie (okay, so was I). And yes, we cried, and worried, and breathed sighs of relief at various points in the movie.

It is rated "G" and I think that this is pretty much accurate, for although the film shows scenes of the cheetah and lionesses hunting, there is no gore, and I don't really remember any shots of the cats actually killing their prey. And while the movie is suspenseful, there are not really any scary scenes - but the lions' growling does get a bit LOUD at times. My son covered his ears, but didn't shut his eyes. Wow. Now that's power.

Now, on to the good part. Disney, in its wisdom, has put together quite a few printables to supplement this film. You can see one over on Spanglish Baby. But here, I want to share with you a couple of resources for teachers and homeschoolers (parents can download them, too!).

The Activity Guide is an eight-page document with several activities and notes for educators. I printed these up today and used them with both of my children (one is in PreK, and the other in 1st grade). They really enjoyed the activities and I was surprised at how much they had learned from the movie. My daughter has been studying habitats in science, so this fit in perfectly! This guide introduces the topics:

• Where do lions and cheetahs live and who are their neighbors?

• How are living things connected on the African savanna?
• What adaptations help lions and cheetahs survive on the savanna?
• How do lions and cheetahs spend their day?
• What tools and technology do researchers use to study African cats in the wild?
• What can you do to help protect African cats?

The Educator's Guide is a more comprehensive download with over 120 pages of lesson plans and activities. I have downloaded it and am looking forward to using it in a mini-unit study this summer. It meets many of the National Science Education Standards. It is primarily geared for students in grades 2 - 6, and includes a lot of detailed information about the African continent with a special emphasis on the savanna eco-system. It then goes on to focus on the big cat species of Africa. It is awesome.

You can also find these files and much, much more over on the Disney site for this movie.


Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: Although Disney has allowed me to share these activity guides with you, I was not compensated for writing this post. All the praise is purely my own!

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