First of all, it uses the film as the core text, not the novel. Whew! A local HS teacher here in Maine is using the novel to teach government in a 9th grade class. Now that's a stretch. On the other hand, if the ELA teacher were doing a dystopian unit at the same time, it might make sense.
This NYT lesson (which can actually be considered a unit) makes sense all by itself. Its focus is a specific "fanciful reality" (the mockingjay) investigated in various contemporary science/engineering updos and from various points of view, including ethics. It assumes that HS students have seen the film or read the novel. This is literate lesson-making.
I wonder what other STEM topics might arise from high-interest novel-to-films of interest to MS and HS students? Here is a peek at some current films that might be tie-ins to STEM topics. Grades 4-6 (maybe 7) might find most of the topics interesting. Problematically, many of the "novels" are originally in the graphic format.
- Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) will interest students in the engineering of gears and robotics, especially since there is a body of historical robotics knowledge available online - also, of course, film-making itself
- The Amazing Spider-Man - the physics of walking UP buildings (it is done by both robots and humans) - the spider's web itself - when Peter has a child, will it have spider powers (why or why not?) - science of special effects
- The Avengers - pick a hero - what is the real science behind his/her powers? to what extent are they possible? - what are the ethics of combating weapon-based terror with larger weapons? are there other alternatives? - science of special effects
- The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey - genetics and biology of "persons of short stature" - science of special effects
- The Lorax - conservation of natural resources - urban development - species interdependency - science of animation
- Prometheus - origin of life on earth - interior geology of earth - science of special effects - myths connection
- World War Z - pandemics - are Zombies possible? (what is death? how can life be extended with science?)
My conclusion? Using novel-based films is an interesting approach to STEM topics, especially ethical topics, but as a rule it is a stretch. As in all uses of technology and media, it is best to begin with the topic and then see if there is a film to back it up. Kids see right through false attempts at engagement.
Another CCSS cautionary tale.