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SEL Movie Spotlight: Wonder

By Rital Miller and Joslyn Stamp

Released in 2017, Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky, follows the story of a little boy named Auggie who went through countless surgeries to fix the facial deformities he was born with. After being homeschooled his entire life, he begins middle school and stands out from the other kids. After making a friend, Jack, who eventually betrays him, he becomes friends with Summer who teaches him to be proud of himself both in his appearance and in his intelligence. Auggie navigates middle school while his sister, Olivia, navigates high school after losing her best friend to a popular clique, leading Olivia to join new activities and meet new friends.

Many SEL concepts are seen within this movie. First, we are confronted with the reality of middle school. If you stand out, whether good or bad, some people will make fun of you for it. Auggie stood out for his appearance, which established the impression that he was like an alien and no one should try to talk or be friends with him. But we also learned that one friend can be the difference in how your life in school can be going. When Auggie was friends with both Jack and Summer, he was happy to feel included even if that meant only having two friends. Sitting with someone new at lunch could make their day or their entire school year 10x better. Olivia, Auggie’s sister, navigates a similar situation. Her best friend Miranda stopped talking to her all summer and when school started up again in the fall, she had a new group of friends, leaving Olivia completely behind. But when Olivia branched out to do a new activity, theater, she met new friends and even her boyfriend. Reaching out of your comfort zone to try new things leads to meeting new people with that common interest building relationships outside of set friend groups or grade levels.

The age we would recommend for this movie is 5+ because we feel it was a lesson that is very important for children to have before reaching school. As they can see children going to school interact with children with unique personalities, sets of skills, and backgrounds. This movie positively highlights everyone's uniqueness, which can show children how difference can be positive. This movie also shows children the value of treating others with respect. One thing it also shows children is the love of science, which is shown through Auggie’s passion for science and the science fair. The movie shows the career of scientists, who test theories and run experiments for the good of nature and society.

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