If you have Disney+ you may have seen a Disney exclusive named Noelle. The story of the Princess of the North Pole (Noelle) who tells her father that she wants to do something important like her brother (heir to Santa). Her father tells her that her job is important – keep making Christmas cards and spreading joy. When Santa dies and Noelle’s brother becomes Santa it’s clear that things are not going the way everyone thought.
There are tons of ways to use this movie as a lesson on self-determination. Noelle has all the characteristics of Santa, but never advocates for herself. When her brother goes missing and the elf council tells her Santa cannot be a girl, she stays quiet. She assumes the elf council knows more than she does about these things.
Noelle’s brother meanwhile does not want to be Santa. He voices this a lot, explains why he should not be Santa and even runs away at one point because no one in his family is listening to him.
My class mapped out the character’s choices and the consequences of the choices they were making. We also discussed what to do if you are advocating for yourself and the people around you are not listening.
Finally, we talked about how when Noelle finally challenges the status quo the answer she gets is “it’s always been that way”. Turns out Santa has never been a girl because no one thought to try to let a girl be Santa. This led to a pretty intense discussion on how to challenge “it’s always been this way” if you have a better way of doing it.
Full disclaimer: I used this lesson with adults so I did not have to field questions about whether Santa was real or not. Know that if you are using this with middle school and below you may start an unintended conversation. Don’t forget to email parents in advance and give students/parents an option to opt-out of this lesson if Christmas is not their belief.
Noelle is rated G and can be found on Disney+