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Friday, July 22, 2011

movie night:: Paddle to the Sea

Friday night is movie night around here. We bathe, pj it up, make cozy nests on the floor, pop corn and snuggle in. While we are not immune from mainstream movies at all, we try to include lots of independent, foreign, and classic films. We also try to discuss both the content and formal aspects of the film - as much as the kids are able and interested. While enjoyable, I also see it as a big part of their education. 

So, here, on most Fridays, I aim to share a film we watched and loved. I will also suggest some extension activities as our films certainly inspire our play, crafting and discussions. 

Paddle to the Sea (1966)

This delightful short film (28 minutes) is based on the book of the same name by Holling C. Holling. It is essentially the quest tale of a Native American boy who can not leave his home for adventure. Instead, he carefully carves a boat, fills the bottom with lead, and paints it. On the bottom he carves, "I Am Paddle To The Sea - Please Put Me Back In The Water."

Following the boat through the water from Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, the viewer joins the adventure, encountering many dangers, from big ships, curious animals, humans and even Niagra Falls. We find ourselves rooting for Paddle To The Sea and so do the people he encounters along the way who without fail return him to the water. 

This film, as most brillant films for kids do, can be experienced on many levels. At it's simplest, it is a boat adventure even a small child will enjoy. But the older kid and adult will recognize themes of yearning, dreaming big and outside yourself, and hope; a deep hope for something you can not see. 

In so many cases, books render the best tale, but in this case the film is both a moving tribute to the book and its own strong piece of art that takes viewers on an emotional journey. I highly reccomend this film for all ages. 

(a copy of this movie along with some balsa wood and simple carving tools would make a GREAT gift for an adventurous kid)

discussion questions

1. How did Paddle to the Sea get from Canada to the Atlantic Ocean?
2. What was the journey like?
3. List the dangers Paddle to the Sea encountered. Can you make a table showing the natural dangers and the human dangers?
4. Why do you think the people who found Paddle to the Sea put him back in the water? Would that be hard for you to do?

extension projects
-trace the journey on a map
-learn about locks and canal history (even visit one if you can)
-make a model of a canal lock using recyclables (this is a challenge!)
-listen to the Great Lakes song
-make paper boats and dip them in beeswax, sail them
-carve boat from wood
-visit a lighthouse
-send something into the world (a message in a bottle, a book or toy with a good message on it).


  1. Fridays are our family movie night too (along with pizza night)! We'll have to add this movie to our list of movies to see! Tonight's selection is "Follow That Bird!" I can't wait for the girls to see it!

    Something tells me that our families are kindred spirits! :)

  2. I am reading my sons this book right now and they LOVE it!! I was googling activities to do relating to this book and learned there was the movie about it... and that led me to your blog post which I noticed you just posted today! So funny!!


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