How can the adventures of Paddington Bear help us in the classroom?

During a recent social studies elective input, we briefly discussed how one might use the film ‘Paddington Bear’ as a stimulus to introduce a new topic. I love the film Paddington, and I remember loving the stories as a child. However when I considered it from the point of a teacher, I realised its vast potential in terms of the learning that it could invoke in a classroom.

When one considers why Paddington ended up on a train to London, you discover that his native home in ‘deepest darkest Peru’ has been destroyed and is no long habitable. This immediately opens up a huge range of opportunities to discuss different, important topics. For example, deforestation: ‘what is the effect of deforestation to the lives and habitats of animals? What can we do to stop this? Why are we cutting down trees in the first place? What would happen if all the world’s rain forests cease to exist’?

Or alternatively, you could view Paddington’s situation from a more historical or modern studies perspective. In a recent article commemorating the life of Micheal Bond, it is written that Bond wanted people to consider what it might have felt like to be an evacuee/a refugee: ‘although Paddington was never arrested, there was “a bit of a kerfuffle” when he was taken in for questioning by the police. There was, of course, a happy ending, but Bond used the book as an opportunity to explain: “a side of Paddington the Browns don’t really understand at all: what it’s like to be a refugee, not to be in your own country”. This is of course an extremely relevant topic today and could potentially provide and appropriate introduction to discussing the current refugee crisis: ‘what must it have felt like to arrive in London with no family or friends? How would you feel if you had to move to a new country on your own? How do you think the Brown’s felt when the saw an unusual looking bear standing at the station? Do you think they treated him well? How would you like to be treated if you arrived somewhere completely new where people didn’t look or sound like everyone you’re used to being around?’

All this potential teaching and learning- including experiences and outcomes from history (evacuation), modern studies (refugee’s/immigration), geography (Peru/deforestation), expressive arts (learning through film) and language and literacy (learning through new/varying textiles)- could take place after watching just the first 10 minutes of a popular children’s film. Who knew?!

This brief discussion proved a valuable stimulus for me as a teacher- the concept of using a children’s film as an introduction to serious learning caught my imagination and through looking into it further, I definitely feel as if this could be an excellent starting point in developing/designing lesson plans in social studies.

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