Championing 'Our Earth' through Into Film+

29 Mar 2022 in Into Film+

6 mins
Part of IF+ 'Our Earth' programme
Part of IF+ 'Our Earth' programme

In the lead-up to Earth Day on 22 April, educators across the UK will be making plans on how to bring the crucial topics of environmentalism, sustainability, climate change and the wellbeing of the planet into their classrooms, and it can be a challenge to know where to start. 

That's why we've curated a special ‘Our Earth' programme of films, resources and exclusive bonus content with Oxfam and Eco Schools - available for free* on Into Film+ - to initiate crucial conversations about these topics in the classroom.

Using your voice to speak up about the climate crisis is an important way of making a difference.

John McLaverty, Oxfam Youth Campaigner

Such conversations should be front and centre in all young people's education, not only to inform them of climate change's impact, but to provide inspiration on how we can all respond and adapt.

Our earth requires urgent action, both big and small, to create lasting and effective change. Whilst much of this work needs to be taken by governments, the private sector and civil society, educators have a particularly key role to play in providing young people with access to important information.

Film, coupled with discussion and action, can be an inspiring medium for change. It opens doors to other parts of our earth that we might never see, from diverse ecosystems to abundant natural resources and species of all kinds. Films and documentaries also tell stories of inspiring people dedicating themselves to activism and uncovering hidden truths, which in turn can help people take those truths into their own communities and encourage positive action.

Our curated collection of feature-length and short films, documentaries, exclusive bonus content from experts and filmmakers, film guides, and educational resources can help initiate discussions around all the above in the run up to Earth Day and beyond.

Feature-Length Films

Each of the below films are accompanied by a film guide that goes into more detail on their key themes and topics - a handy additional resource to bring into your classroom.

The Lorax (U)

This fun animated adaptation of the Dr. Suess book is about a peculiar orange creature The Lorax, ‘guardian of the forest' who speaks for the trees. It is an imaginative tale touching on deforestation, pollution and the importance of ecosystems. The Lorax is accompanied by an engaging bonus video created in collaboration with Eco Schools to get your younger students thinking about the importance of their local environment, and the easy ways they can make a difference.  

The Martian (12)

When an exploration assignment to Mars is struck by a violent storm, the crew is forced to abandon the mission, leaving behind astronaut Mark Watney. Alone in a harsh environment and with dwindling resources, Mark is forced against the odds to find a way of surviving. The Martian is a great film to watch as part of Science, Biology and PSHE lessons, and to discuss ways of using and creating new resources, sustainability and biowaste management.

Oddball and the Penguins (U)

When farmer Swampy Marsh's wayward dog Oddball causes havoc in the town of Warrnambool yet again, he receives a final warning: Oddball must be kept under control, or else. Meanwhile, Swampy's daughter Emily is anxious because the penguin sanctuary that she works so hard to protect is under threat. Can Swampy and his granddaughter Libby find a way to help Emily and her penguins, and keep Oddball out of trouble at the same time? A great film to stream with younger audiences to discuss the importance of animal conservation and protection.

Moana (PG)

This bright and colourful Disney animation tells the story of Moana - the chief's daughter of a Polynesian village - who goes to great lengths to protect her people when a blight strikes their island by calling on the power of Te Fiti, the goddess of nature. This fun film touches on Polynesian mythology and explores the importance of protecting her land and her ancestors, and discovering her identity.

The Biggest Little Farm (PG)

John and Molly Chester decide to follow their dream of creating a sustainable farm. They move to a rural area outside of Los Angeles and have 200 acres of land to mold into their own vision. Shot over eight years, this enlightening documentary highlights their various struggles, challenges and triumphs along the way, as they aim to create a biodiverse haven for all creatures, great and small. The Biggest Little Farm educates young audiences about the food chain, farming practices, nature, and issues around life and death in an accessible way.

March of the Penguins (U)

This incredible documentary captures the remarkable journey the Emperor penguins of the South Antarctic make every winter. The birds leave the ocean in their thousands and embark on a twenty day walk to a place so harsh, no other life form exists there. But the journey of life does not stop there as they demonstrate sheer endurance and willpower to make sure that their young survive. This film is a fantastic way of exploring the natural world with students of all ages.  

Short Films

Eve (11-16)

Nine-year-old Eve lives with her parents and brother in an off-grid sustainable community in the UK countryside. This short documentary shows how they live amongst nature, growing food from the ground and co-existing in a rural community. Eve is passionate about environmental issues and the film also follows her involvement in activism. This documentary discusses the many ways sustainability can be practiced and asks questions about how social norms impact environmental action. Eve is accompanied by an introduction and a short ‘top tips' video on how to write a successful advocacy speech from Oxfam Youth Campaigner, John McLaverty.

Hybrids (11-16)

Deep under water, a reef has become a junkyard. Now a dark place almost completely devoid of wildlife, the remaining fish have adapted to the overwhelming pollution by transforming into hybrids: half-fish, half-trash. This impressive and ominous short 3D animation raises questions about what the future might look like due to increasing pollution and offers an opportunity to discuss what needs to change.

The Story of Plastic (11-16)

This animated short documentary investigates the state of the plastics industry and gives a brief overview of the entire manufacturing process: extraction, transport, refining, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. It highlights how businesses have turned to plastic production in more recent times, since the decline in gas and oil, with plans to build or expand over 300 petrochemical plants in the US alone by 2025. However, the documentary offers hope for systemic change, such as phasing out single-use plastics which pollute the most, resulting in a zero-waste future in which products are reused, repaired or effectively recycled. The Story of Plastic provides a great introduction to environmentalism and sustainability for students of all ages.

Thermostat 6 (11-16)

Teenager Diane, at the lack of concern from her family, takes matters into her own hands to fix the leak which threatens to flood their whole house. Thermostat 6 is a humorous French language animation that examines attitudes around climate change as well as providing an allegorical introduction to the topic for younger learners.

The Beauty (7-14)

A short film that shows us what the blue planet might look like if we continue to ignore the effect our consumption is having on it. We are shown familiar creatures and environments that have been altered by plastic, pollution and human indifference. Serving as a reminder of the ocean's vastness and beauty as well as a warning of how we must protect it from environmental pollution, this digital animation can be used in conjunction with lessons about climate change and the natural world.

Migrants (11+)

A parent and child polar bear are forced to flee their Arctic home due to the melting ice caused by climate change. Their journey to find a new place to live sees them discover a forest community of brown bears. However, they don't receive the welcome they expect and find it difficult to survive in their hostile new surroundings. This 3D computer animated short film doesn't shy away from reflecting the harsh reality of many refugees' and migrants' stories, depicting how they are regularly persecuted by wider society, as a result of natural disaster and conflict.

2025: The Long Hot Winter (11+)

In 2025, a documentary film crew decides to brave the heat of winter and venture out into central London to interview members of the public during Christmas. The damaging effects of climate change are contrasted against British indifference as families eat their festive meals on rooftops under the beating sun and friends sunbathe together in the scorching hills of Hampstead Heath. This satirical mockumentary is full of funny moments but, dispersed throughout, are reminders that this is a reality that could very well be on the horizon. This short tackles a vital subject and is a perfect accompaniment to lessons about climate change and environmentalism.

The Wonderful Story of Aisha, Ali & Flipflopi the Multicoloured Dhow Boat (5-11)

Aisha and Ali are siblings who live near the ocean and join their father on regular fishing trips. However, they notice a change in the environment and can no longer see creatures under the sea due to plastic pollution. They build their own colourful dhow boat from recycled material and use it to spread the word about reducing waste. This African animation is an accessible and vibrant story that is suitable for introducing themes around recycling and pollution to very young audiences. 

In addition to the film guides, our Eco Explorers resources are free to download and are a great way of exploring environmental activity and learning with your primary students across three areas: litter, biodiversity and sustaining our world. They come with a teaching resource, a handy PowerPoint presentation and a curriculum links document. Download and access them today in English and Welsh.

We also have a selection of Doc Academy resources available, several of which are particularly relevant to exploring the environment and sustainability. We have a geography resource for ages 11-16 that uses short clips from the award-winning documentary Chasing Ice to explore climate change, with a particular focus on glaciers and glacial retreat, and a suite of English and geography resources themed around Thank You for the Rain, a documentary which follows Kisilu (a Kenyan farmer) and his family, as they battle the harsh realities of climate change. 

These resources also include a range of clips from the films, which you can both watch and download, while we also have an action toolkit around Thank You for the Rain which provide a framework to inspire and support young people to take action about issues that affect their world.

Be sure to also explore how film can engage learners in important conversations about sustainability and empower them to amplify their voices on what matters to them most through filmmaking in our new online course, Sustainability Through Film. All that you learn can be applied to teaching young people from key stages 1-5. Enrolments are now open and the course begins on Earth Day (22 April).

Finally, to stay engaged with wider conversations around the major steps the UK is taking toward combatting climate change, the National Climate Change Conference is taking place online throughout today (29 March).

*Screenings for an entertainment or extra-curricular purpose require a PVS (Public Video Screening) Licence from Filmbankmedia. State-funded schools in England are covered by the PVS Licence.

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