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Social studies class at home: 12 docs to watch

Here's everything parents need for an impromptu social studies lesson

Here's everything parents need for an impromptu social studies lesson

CBC Docs is making life easier on impromptu homeschool social studies teachers. (CBC)

All over Canada, parents are finding themselves in the position of having to suddenly homeschool their children. That means they're looking for material that can teach them about the world around them without having to actually go into the world.

CBC Docs has a whole array of shows covering everything history, current events, technology, politics and everything in between. Everything you need if you're an impromptu social studies teacher.

How We Saved the Planet: Ozone Hole

Back in the 1980s, the world was faced with a global environmental crisis of an unprecedented scale. A massive hole started to appear in the ozone layer of Earth's atmosphere. Scientists warned that this would allow more of the sun's UV rays to hit the Earth's surface and that could lead to everything from a rise in cancer rates to crop devastation. But governments came together, across political lines and in the face of opposition from industry, to tackle the problem. This is the story of how that happened.

Searching for Winnetou

Every year, thousands of Germans visit Canada's north, and tens of thousands visit special holiday camps in their own country, looking for a genuine "Indianer" experience (what Germans call the North American Native lifestyle). And if you ask them why, it almost always comes back to their love for Winnetou, a fictional Apache warrior who was the hero of a series of German books written at the turn of the last century, and very popular film franchise from the 1960s.

Anishnaabe author Drew Hayden Taylor goes to Germany to meet some of these "Indianthusiasts" and figure out whether what their doing is cultural appropriation, appreciation, or something else entirely.

14 & Muslim

Three Muslim teens from suburban Toronto prepare to leave their small, private religious elementary school for publicly funded high school. In the process, they learn more about their faith, themselves, and the world around them.


In a follow-up to the acclaimed 2007 documentary Sharkwater, filmmaker Rob Stewart embarks on an adventure over 4 years and through 15 countries and reveals that all of our actions are interconnected. Revolution looks at the threat of environmental collapse facing us all, and profiles the (mostly) young people attempting to do something about it.

Angry Inuk

For decades, animal rights activists have targeted Canada's seal hunt as cruel, barbaric, and unnecessary. For Inuit communities in Canada's north, however, seal meat is an important part of the traditional diet and selling seal skins provides a crucial source of income. 

Filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril visits these communities to talk about how the ban on seal products has affected them, then follows a group of Inuit youth as they lobby the European Union for change. 

The Equalizer

It seems like today's athletes are faster, stronger, and better than ever before. Every Olympics, a slew of new world records are set. But how much of that change is due to better training, and how much of it is due to technology?

The Nature of Things tries to find the answer in The Equalizer. Modern elite athletes — including Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse — are given old-timey equipment, and then challenged to beat the records of the sporting heroes of yesteryear.

Under Thin Ice

The Arctic Ocean is home to an amazing array of species not found further south. Many live near the ocean's edge and depend on sea ice to survive. But climate change is changing the Arctic faster than anywhere else in the world and sea ice is disappearing completely for longer periods each summer. How will this effect the species that call the Arctic Ocean home?

Trapped in a Human Zoo

In 1880, Abraham Ulrikab, an Inuit man from Labrador, was convinced to go to Europe to be displayed in a human zoo. He was motivated by a need to pay off a debt, as well as a desire to see Europe. He brought his wife and two daughters, as well as another young man from the community, along with him. According to his diary, Ulrikab regretted the decision almost immediately. He and his family never came home.

Over 130 years later, Labrador Inuit leader Johannes Lampe goes to Europe to retrace Abraham's steps, find out what happened to the family, and hopefully bring their remains home.

Volunteers Unleashed

Every year, thousands of "voluntourists" travel south in search of adventure and a life-affirming experience. Mostly, these volunteers — who often pay for the trip — are idealistic, well-intentioned young people who just want to help. But does this army of largely untrained, ad-hoc, "teachers," "animal carers" and "construction workers" make a difference, or do they just get in the way? This documentary looks at the hard questions behind voluntourism.

The World According to Amazon

Twenty-five years ago, consisted of an ex-Wall Street analyst and two coders shipping about 20 books a day out of a garage in suburban Seattle. For many people, they've made getting life's necessities cheaper and easier. But is now the largest marketplace in the world and that is having a huge impact on its workers, local communities and even the global economy.  Take a look inside this retail giant and their effort to conquer the world.

Fashion's Dirty Secrets

You wouldn't guess it, but the fashion industry is one of the most heavily polluting industries on Earth, right alongside fossil fuel extraction and transportation. The rise of "fast fashion" has lead to the production of over 100 billion new garments from new fibres every year. The fashion business is indirectly responsible for environmental problems including dust storms in central Asia to mysterious found on skin rashes on people in Indonesia. What will it take for fashion to clean up its act?

Songbird SOS

Songbird populations have been in critical decline around the world. We may have already lost almost half the songbirds that filled the skies fifty years ago. But why? And how can we help these birds, which form a crucial part of our ecosystem, make a comeback?