The Penguin Counters

68 min. First Run Features. 2017. $19.95. UPC 720229917407.
Gr 5 Up—This documentary about climate change uses endearing penguins to make its points about the changes happening on Earth. It follows conservationist Ron Naveen and his crew of researchers as they travel to Antarctica to count penguin nesting sites; the health and well-being of the penguin colonies is a bellwether for the planet. Naveen and his team collect eggshells and feathers to determine what the birds are eating and how flexible they are in their diet. When the climate changes, food sources alter and they must adapt; as Naveen points out, adaptability is the key to surviving change for penguins and humans. Much of the film centers on the difficult journey the researchers undertake to reach the penguin colonies. The trip provides the drama, as it is not very exciting to see people standing around with clickers in their hands, counting. The film also includes an overview of explorer Ernest Shackleton, an inspiration to Naveen, and offers a very brief history of whaling in Antarctic waters. The extra features, all under five minutes, further clarify some issues. An interview with a statistical ecologist helps students understand why counting, something seemingly simple, is so important to the researchers.
VERDICT The film approaches climate change and environmentalism from a unique, and rather adorable, angle. It should be well received in science and environmental classes.

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