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Science Lesson Plans to Use With 'Finding Nemo'

Updated on February 12, 2019
DeborahDian profile image

Deborah is a mother and grandmother who loves to pass on tips to other parents and grandparents in her articles.

Your Students Will Always Recognize a Clown Fish After Learning About Them in "Finding Nemo"

"Finding Nemo" has helped millions of children learn more about the ocean.
"Finding Nemo" has helped millions of children learn more about the ocean. | Source

Fun Oceanography Lesson Plans That Students Love

At the Southern California high school where I assist in several freshman science classes, the unit of study on oceanography is very popular. One tool that many of our teachers use is the movie "Finding Nemo."

When our teachers reach the oceanography unit, it is usually near the end of the school year. The students are burned out and are often day-dreaming about long summer days at the beach. Incorporating a fun, lighthearted movie into the curriculum is a pleasant way to help the students relax and really enjoy their end of the year lessons.

Even though the lesson plans that we use are designed for high school use, it would be easy to modify these ideas for use with elementary and middle school students. In fact, "Finding Nemo" is an excellent way to introduce even kindergarten and preschool children to a little bit of oceanography.

First, of course, you will need to be able to show "Finding Nemo" in your classroom.

As you go through this article, you will find a variety of questions and answers that our science teachers use as part of the oceanography curriculum at our high school. Simply choose the items that are appropriate for your age level and use them to introduce your students to the fabulous deep blue sea.

"Finding Nemo" Lesson Plans about Marine Life

Once you have a video and you are prepared to show it, you will want to have a few questions to help your students connect the movie to the material they have been learning in class. Here are some ideas that have come from various worksheets:

1. Teach your students about clownfish and the symbiotic relationship they have with anemones.

Yes, as is shown at the beginning and end of the movie, clownfish really are able to live in the middle of the tentacles of sea anemones. This is because they have a symbiotic relationship which means that the clownfish and the anemone benefit from the relationship. The anemone stings and eats most other fish, but the clownfish have a special coating that keeps them from being stung. The anemone can then live safely in the the anemone and, at the same time, protects the anemone from some species of fish that could pick at its tentacles.

2. Talk about the different types of marine life that are depicted in the movie. Here are some topics of discussion:

Q. Could sharks like Bruce and his friends really stop eating fish?

No, while it is nice to think that a shark could stop eating fish, the truth is that they could not survive.

Q. Can fish communicate with other members of their own species?

Many fish make noises and appear to communicate with each other. It is unlikely that they can understand the sounds of other species.

Q. Do fish socialize with other species?

Other than symbiotic relationships such as the clownfish and the anemone, other species do not seem to associate with each other in real life. In particular, they do not associate with the wide diversity of other sealife that you see in the movie.

Q. Do squids really squirt ink when they get excited?

Squids don't squirt their ink very often. When they do, it is because they feel threatened by a predator.

Q. Could little fish like Nemo and Dory really survive deep in the darkest parts of the ocean where they came across the scary fish that created its own light?

No. Clownfish usually live in the top part of the ocean, no deeper than 50 feet. Blue tang fish like Dory are rarely found below 140 feet. The completely dark part of the ocean is in the areas that are 3000 feet deep or deeper.

3. Discuss the different marine lifestyles.

The three basic lifestyles are plankton (including phytoplankton and zooplankton), neckton (the swimmers) and benthos (bottom dwellers).

4. Have your students do more research on some of the fish and birds depicted in the movie.

Even little kids can do a poster on clownfish or sharks. Older students can be expected to write a report or do an oral presentation and share what they have learned with the other children in their class.

Further on in this article, you will also find information about the ocean currents, which play an important role in Nemo's trip and his attempt to reunite with his father.

Science Lessons About Currents and Ocean Zones

There are a lot of additional lessons that can be taught using "Finding Nemo." This is a great opportunity to talk to the students about the different ocean zones and currents.

For example, Nemo's father, Marlin, and his friend, Dory, spend part of their journey by riding the EAC or the East Australian Current. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk to your students about all the major ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream. Discuss with them which currents are warm currents, that are moving away from the equator, and which currents are cold currents, such as those that originate in the polar regions.

Do fish use these currents to speed up their travel?

The scientists that I researched seemed uncertain, although it certainly is possible that some species that travel long distances may use the currents when the migrate from one part of the ocean to another.

In addition, this is a great opportunity to discuss how light affects the different ocean zones.

The Euphotic Zone is the area where most sealife occurs. There is plenty of light for photosynthesis, so both plants and animals can thrive there. Below the Euphotic Zone is the Disphotic Zone which is also known as the Twilight Zone. As its name implies, a little bit of light penetrates is area. It is enough to enable fish to see, but not enough for the survival of any plants that depend on photosynthesis. The lowest area is the Aphotic Zone or Midnight Zone. Light never reaches this area and there is little food. It is an harsh environment and the creatures that do exist here live under extreme pressure.

Share your opinion about teaching oceanography to your students!

Do you think watching "Finding Nemo" is a good way to introduce oceanography to children?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Deborah Carr

Share your ideas for "Finding Nemo" science lesson plans with my readers.

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    • DeborahDian profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah Carr 

      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      This movie is not just light-hearted entertainment. It can also be used to teach kids about oceanography, marine life, ocean currents, geography and much more.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I showed my kids on a globe the areas that the movie took place in - such as where they likely started, and the ocean currents, and where Sydney, Australia is.

    • ShadowSphereOT profile image


      5 years ago from U.S.

      I remember watching this in a science class in high school just for fun but I'm sure it was approved for it's educational value. I did learn a little from it so I guess it works. Great lens.

    • amytrumpeter profile image

      Amy Trumpeter 

      5 years ago from Oxford

      What lovely ideas!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Pinned to my Disney board.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      What a fun and entertaining way to teach children about ocean life.


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