Answers From Jeff Corwin

I had a nice chat yesterday with Jeff Corwin via skype. My webcam was acting really wonky so you don’t get to see me here. Jeff answered a few of the questions that our cyberschooling friends asked. He was really excited about the opportunities that we have available to us here in Denver and tells us a few of his favorite Colorado experiences. It is 11 mins long so make it a part of your kiddos learning day and watch!

Valkyrie: Lessons To Be Learned?

This post is going to prompt a new category around here called “tv doesn’t always rot your brain”. In fact, I use so many movies to spark interest and provide background knowledge on historical topics. Of course, you have to do your research and that is why I think I will continue to post more about the movies we have watched and what we gained from them.

The other night we rented Valkyrie with Tom Cruise. I have been wanting to see this for a while but the boys were less than thrilled. I finally won out the other night and I have to say we all learned something from it. In case you did not know the film is set in Nazi Germany (called Hitler’s Germany throughout the movie) during WWII and follows history fairly closely.

The main lesson we walked away with was a better understanding of the German Resistance movement. I had no idea that numerous attempts were made on Hitlers life by Germans. The line in the movie: “we were not all like him” was a key element the Resistance wanted people in the outside world to know. It was also the most important “take out” piece of the movie for us in talking to the kids after. It sparked a great discussion on racism, being a follower, standing up for what you believe in and not making mass assumptions.

I really think this is a great perspective to lend to your kids background knowledge of this era. As always, the film is not for everyone and you should read detailed reviews on the appropriateness of it for your family. Both of my kids were fine watching it at 10 and 13 but both Carter and I were grossed out by the eye. If you do decide to read about it, get some background knowledge so it makes more sense. We had to stop it several times in the beginning to fill the boys in on important information.

As always, let me know what you think or if you have another movie suggestion, fill me in below! *pass the popcorn please*

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

We just got back from watching this as a family. We don’t go to the movies much anymore because of the cost but with the long weekend, we went as a special treat. All of us are big fans of the first one. It is one of those movies that we could watch over and over again. There is just something that appeals to all of us. For me, it is the historical characters that come to life for the kids. Now, I am not saying that this movie is incredibly historically accurate. What I am saying is that anytime my kids think of Easter Island, they know right away what the statues look like (and of course say, “You bring me gum gum, dumb dumb?). But, nonetheless they know what Easter Islandahutongariki is. The first movie brought to life Christopher Columbus, Attila the Hun, and a host of other historical figures. I wish that I had taken some time prior to going today though to do some research on the historical figures in Battle of the Smithsonian.

Some were obvious and needed no introduction to the kids, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, and Amelia Earhart. But there were some people and objects that if the kids would have more background information on it might have added to their enjoyment.

Below is a list of what I wish I would have pre-taught so that maybe you can be more prepared than me:

  • 250px-the_thinker_closeThe Thinker by Rodin- the boys have been doing this little “UH, UH, Fire Power” all week (think gun show with the arms). It comes from a part in the movie when The Thinker gets up and does a ‘gun show’. They probably would have understood the sarcasm of The Thinker being portrayed as a dumb jock if they knew more about the subject.
  • Al Capone-My boys don’t know much about the Italian Mafia. They really had a hard time understanding any of the parts with them.
  • Napoleon-Great reference in the movie to what a Napoleon complex is. Boys will probably easily remember now what that phrase means.
  • Ivan the Terrible-even though he is a central character in the movie, it does a poor job of explaining who he is.
  • 180px-tuskegee_airman_posterTuskegee Airmen-Surprisingly my oldest was able to tell us all about them. He learned about them on a late night history channel show. Who says letting your kids stay up and watch tv is a bad thing?
  • 250px-g_a_custerGeneral Custer-specifically on him you want your kids to understand his Last Stand and why he may not have made the wisest battle decisions. The movie does a bit of spoofing on this and there is a part where he talks about his ‘big mistake’.
  • I am all about finding those teachable moments and while this movie probably won’t win any Oscars, it is a great way to introduce the kids to some historical characters. With a little bit of knowledge from the above list, you may provide them with a frame of reference to make it all that more enjoyable.

    I am sure that I probably left out quite a few characters so if you think of any, leave me a comment and I will try to add them.

    *Most pictures in this post came from Wikipedia and are common use.