Greetings from The Paley Center for Media’s Education Department!
Welcome to the latest installment of “What We’re Watching,” a weekly Paley Education@Home guide. During this unprecedented time, we thought we would reach out to our community with some tips and ideas for consuming media with your kids! We know that screen time has increased so we’re here to help! Each week we are highlighting a different theme that connects to two selected programs, one for younger kids and one for older students, each with related activities.

Consuming media with your kids is a perfect jumping-off point to making media literacy a part of your everyday lives. Familiarizing yourself with the basics is a great first step. In case you missed it, you can view our first edition about media literacy best practices. We also recommend the National Association for Media Literacy Education’s Parents Guide—it’s a terrific introduction!
Weekly Zoom Meet-ups
Fridays, 1:00 to 1:30 pm ET
Students Grades 3+ can join us for a weekly Zoom Meet-up, Fridays from 1:00 to 1:30 pm ET, to chat about the week’s theme and engage in some hands-on learning led by a Paley Educator. Parents and teachers are welcome to join as well!

For connection details, please RSVP to
What We're Watching: Ghibli Fest
This week we’re focusing on films directed by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, an annual summer tradition for Paley Center educators and fans of Studio Ghibli worldwide! The beautiful hand-drawn animation combines storytelling elements that explore childhood imagination, perilous adventure, fantastical creatures, evocative natural landscapes, and tiny details relating to the human experience and growing up. Miyazaki’s film canon has made him one of the most well respected and adored animators of all time. While we are recommending two different films for younger and older students respectively, these two work well in tandem for viewers of any age. Ultimately, Ghibli animation is a place for fantasy, creativity, and human compassion—all things the world needs a lot of right now!
This Week's Recommendation for Younger Kids: My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Recommended for Grades 1+
Available to stream on HBO Max

In My Neighbor Totoro, Satsuki and her sister Mei move to a new home (full of soot sprites) in the countryside with their father. They soon discover that the house and nearby woods are full of strange and delightful creatures, including a gigantic forest spirit called Totoro, who can only be seen by children. Totoro and his friends introduce the girls to a series of adventures, including a ride on the iconic Cat Bus.
Listening Questions
  • Describe the house and surrounding environment that Satsuki and Mei move to with their father at the beginning of the movie.
  • Where do they find Totoro and why do you think they are unafraid of him?
  • Why do you think only children can see Totoro and the Cat Bus?
  • How do the two girls deal with their mother’s sickness differently?
  • How does Totoro ultimately help Mei and Satsuki?
  • How would you describe the animation style of the film?
  • What is different about the pacing of this film than in American animated features you might have seen? Think about how you felt as you watched.

Extension Activities

Additional Resources

This Week's Recommendation for Older Students: Spirited Away
Spirited Away (2001)
Recommended for Grades 4+
Available to stream on HBO Max

Ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park on their way to moving to a new house in Spirited Away. After her parents are turned into giant pigs, she meets the mysterious Haku, who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm. Put to work in a magical bathhouse for spirits and demons, Chihiro must use all her wits to survive in this strange place, find a way to free her parents, and return to the normal world.

Viewing Questions:
  • What happens at the beginning of the story that leads Chihiro to the spirit world and leaves her parents transformed?
  • Describe the spirit world and the bathhouse. What details do you notice? What do the spirits look like? Are they scary?
  • What role do names play in this film? Why are names so important to identity?
  • What kind of character is No-Face? Describe him.
  • How is Yubaba different from other characters we meet? What do you think she represents?
  • How is the concept of greed explored through characters in the film and what message is being sent about it through them?
  • How are themes of environmental concerns explored in both of the films? What else is similar in both films?

Extension Activity

Additional Resources


The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

More great Ghibli films:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Young Game Designers: New for You!
We are thrilled to offer our online student community two exciting opportunities to learn game design through our partnership with the Urban Arts Partnership’s School of Interactive Arts (SIA).

SIA: Summer Coding Camp: Apply now for a six-week (July 13 to August 2, 2020) virtual coding camp where you will learn the foundations of game design and be introduced to C# programming language on the Unity game engine.

The Ghost School: Interactive Video Game That Teaches Computer Thinking: Create your avatar then make your way through the levels of the haunted schools as you learn programming logic and syntax, computational thinking, and more.
Paley Online Classes
Explore these rich, full online classes, with complete thematic descriptions, clips from the Paley Archive, pre- and post-viewing questions, associated vocabulary, further online resources, and more.

As always, if you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

Happy viewing,
Rebekah Fisk, Director of Education
Caroline Quigley, Senior Manager of School & Family Programs

Photos—Studio Ghibli/Buena Vista
Support The Paley Center for Media

We hope this inspires you to watch and learn together in a new way at home! The Paley Center is here for you and, now more than ever before, we would deeply appreciate your support. Please consider making a donation: