Avatar: The Way of Water continues the story of Jake, Neytiri, and their children. For many years, they have lived peacefully in Pandora’s trees. Then the sky people (humans) return with a plan to take Pandora for themselves. For over three hours, my family was fully immersed in the deeply spiritual world of the Na’vi people and the immense threat that the invaders posed to their way of life.
Rated PG-13, this sci-fi movie provides many opportunities to explore spiritual themes with older elementary school children. Use one or more of these activities to get a conversation started.
Spending time in spiritual places. The Na’vi connect to Ewya (the Great Mother) via their spirit trees. Explore this idea of spiritual places with children. Ask: Where do you feel most connected to the universe [or God]? How do you feel when you are in that place? If you are able, visit their spiritual place together. If not, invite them to draw a picture of themselves in that place.
Questioning colonialism. The Na’vi are fighting to keep their homeland and their traditions, just as indigenous people have done throughout the world. Invite children to look up the tribal groups that originally lived in your location. Trace their history. Ask: How did they interact with colonial settlers? What happened? Where do they reside now?
Empathizing with immigrants. When the family finds refuge with the sea tribe, they must learn a different way of life. At first, many things are hard, like holding one’s breath for a long time and understanding the underwater hand language. But eventually, they adapt and thrive in their new home. Imagine what it would be like for someone from another culture to move into your neighborhood. Ask: What would they find difficult to learn? How could you help make their transition easier?
Practicing belly breathing: The children learn to take deep belly breaths and use this skill to calm their parents and help the family escape a sinking ship. Encourage children to place their hands on their belly and feel their stomach expand as they take a deep breath. Then invite them to slowly release their breath through their mouth. Repeat this several times. Ask: How do you feel when you practice belly breathing? When might this practice be useful?
Resisting violence. The tulkun are wise and gentle sea creatures who resist using violence, even though they are extremely strong. In one scene, a tulkun mother chooses non-violence despite being threatened. In another, a tulkun uses his strength to protect the Na’vi against battleships. Ask: When would you choose a non-violent response? When do you think violence would be an appropriate response? How do you decide?
Remembering important stories. The movie opens and closes with Neytiri holding a string of beads and singing. Each bead represents a different memory and chapter in the family’s life. Invite children to create their own story string, with different colored beads representing important moments in their family’s life. Then write a song together highlighting one or more parts of their story.