What 'Finding Nemo' Can Teach Students About Decision Making

Never underestimate the power of a movie clip. 


Skills from the National Health Education Standards can liven any health classroom—when taught creatively.

Standard 5 of the NHES states, “Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.” Decision making is a vital life skill that students can learn and practice in class, as applied to any health topic (like tobacco, for instance).

To help students learn the decision-making process, I like to use short scenes from popular movies. The familiar characters engage students, while prompting them to interpret the plot with a new, health-minded perspective.

The decision-making process I use is based on performance indicators from the NHES, as outlined in the following chart: 


NHES Performance Indicators Decision-Making Model
5.8.2 Determine when health-related situations require the application of a thoughtful decision-making process. 1. Identify the Decision To Be Made
5.8.4 Distinguish between healthy and unhealthy alternatives to health-related issues or problems. 2. Consider Your Options
5.8.5 Predict the potential short-term impact of each alternative on self and others. 3. Identify Potential Positives & Negatives For Each Option
5.8.6 Choose healthy alternatives over unhealthy alternatives when making a decision. 4. Make Your Decision & Take Action
5.8.7 Analyze the outcomes of a health-related decision. 5. Evaluate & Reflect On Your Decision


I use this clip of “Finding Nemo” for this lesson, because the situation depicted involves peer pressure and quick thinking. The step-by-step sequence below will help guide your lesson as you view the beginning of a video clip, pause for discussion, resume the clip to see which decision the character made, then evaluate the decision in a follow-up discussion. 

Feel free to adapt the language and questions to fit the needs of your students, and the movie clip you choose. 

  1. If need be, briefly explain the background of “Finding Nemo,” then play the scene in which Nemo touches the boat (called “the butt” in the clip). Play the clip until Nemo looks back and forth between his dad and the boat. Use this time to walk through the first four steps of the decision-making model. Solicit responses from the students for each step, having them explain what they would do and predict what they think Nemo will do.
  2. Resume the video clip, and allow students to examine Nemo's possible outcomes, thinking about the decision from Nemo's perspective. 
  3. Once the clip is over, discuss and evaluate Nemo's decision. Did the results match what Nemo thought would happen?

Explain to students that they can relate the "Finding Nemo" boat scene to any risk situation they may encounter: tobacco, alcohol, sexual activity, bullying, etc. No matter what's at stake, the steps to the decision-making process remain the same, so it's crucial that students practice and master the steps early.