Educational films from elementary school

Paddle To The Sea (1966). A land-locked First Nations boy carves a native in a canoe. The carved man is named Paddle To The Sea, and the bottom of the canoe has ‘Please put me back in the water.’

The Rise And Fall Of The Great Lakes (1968). Following the adventures of a canoeist as he paddles through time.

There was a later film I saw after elementary school, that I’d like to see again: Cipher In The Snow (1973). From IMDb: ‘Asking to leave a school bus, Cliff, a young teenager, collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His math teacher is asked to notify the parents and then write a short obituary. This task is difficult, for although he was Cliff’s favorite teacher and had the most interaction of any at the school, he barely knew him. In unraveling the mystery of the untimely death, he finds that Cliff was shy, lonely, and ostracized, being slowly reduced to nothing, a zero (cipher).’ I’ve only just found the video, and I’ll watch it later.

Man, I can’t remember the plots of any educational films from elementary school. Best I remember was some anti-drug film warning us to stay away from “yellowjackets” and “red devils”. I suppose avoiding yellowjackets (and Satan) is good practice regardless but I don’t think that’s what they intended.

I do remember being excited as a kid to see that we had a film strip in store for us in class and then being disappointed that it was one of the lame frame-advance ones:

“The history of steel production begins here in Iron Age Assyria BOOP! Click! While smelting iron in charcoal fires, ancient people learn it becomes stronger and more durable BOOP! Click!…”

I know we saw a bunch, but the only one I can remember I just coincidentally saw again for the first time in probably 50 years just this weekend (on TCM). The Story of Dr. Jenner (1939) about the doctor who noticed the connection between cowpox exposure and the resistance the afflicted later had to smallpox.

Remember the “Dr. Research” films? “Hemo the Magnificent,” and, “Our Mr. Sun,” were two of them. Eddie “Green Acres” Albert was his assistant in one of them. And his flaming red hair :eek:.

I remember that. I also remember The Red Balloon, a weird little wordless French film about a bullied boy.

I remember one where someone had a large nose ring. This was before people wore nose rings. The message was that peer pressure (masquerading as ‘marketing’) led young people to do stupid things, like wearing a nose ring (by which they are led around by the nose) and taking illegal drugs.

“Ringer!” I remember that one.

I loved those “Dr. Research” films.

There was another series, teaching anatomy.
I am Joe’s Heart
I am Joe’s Lung
I am Joe’s Kidney


From middle school English classes, I remember a version of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” with Kathleen Beller, and “The Fall of the House of Usher” with Isaac Asimov. After the story ended, Asimov gave a short lecture on how he adapted Poe’s story into a script, and why he changed a couple of things, in order to make it flow better on the screen.


I remember the boys being sent out of the room, and we girl students watching a film called The Story of Menstruation. A nurse in the film told us how our uteruses worked, and it was animated by Disney.

I suppose the boys were watching some equivalent film about how their wing-wangs worked, but I never asked.

ETA: I Googled up another one I remember: Reason And Emotion, also by Disney. Showed that we each have a little caveman or woman inside of us (“Emotion”) that makes us do stupid things.

I don’t show a ton of them, but Magic Schoolbus is really pretty good for getting across some science ideas, and Scholastic has some decent “tours of a pilgrim ship” bits, and for exhausted post-field-trip lunches in the classroom, you can’t beat a Planet Earth documentary about caves.

We saw filmstrips instead of films. I guess the closest modern equivalent is a Powerpoint presentation. Filmstrip projectors were much cheaper than film projectors (and home videocassettes did not exist).

I remember this one; was it supposed to be educational? IIRC it just made me sad :confused:

I vaguely recall the anti drug movies, though nothing quite as cutting edge as Ringer. Holy cow, that was graphic.

The only sex ed one I remember is the one about VD ("you have WHAT!!?)

My favorite (though not educational) was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Who’s that walking down the street?
Are those shovels or are they feet?
Ichabod, Ichabod Crane!

The one scene from such a film that I remember most vividly was about a nuclear reaction: the guy demonstrated using a setup of ping-pong balls and mousetraps. Basically, there was a room full of set mousetraps, all with two ping-pong balls on the “snap” part. He tossed one ping-pong ball into the room, and it almost immediately came alive, with traps going off, tossing balls into the air, setting off more traps, etc. Kinda neat looking.

I remember that one. Was quite surprised to find out, years later, that it was directed by Frank Capra.

I remember the three in the OP, too. Let me add Why Man Creates.

The Disney production of the Maria storm and damage in California, I think it was. Real footage of various storms mixed in with some dramatic editing. I think it was a rare two-parter, so it ate up two days of class.

Paddle To The Sea made such an impression on me that when it came out on DVD I bought it. It’s still good.

Almost all of those “educational” films were total crap.

But I do agree that those Bell System Science films were generally great.

Apaches. The Youtube description is entirely accurate:

To be fair though it was fantastically effective - none of my classmates were crushed by tractors or drowned in effluent ponds. So maybe the years of nightmares were worth it.

OK, kids, we’re gonna have a burlesque show today! We’re gonna watch a film strip!

Yes, I used that line. Nobody knew what a burlesque show, so it got no laughs.

Anyway, the film I saw several times a year from 7th-11th grade was “Why Man Creates”. It didn’t matter which class it was, it was bound to appear some time during the year!

I see Robot Arm beat me to it.

For Driver’s Ed, nothing beats Prom Night, which unfolds exactly as you would expect.

POW, right through the windshield! :eek: