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Issues in Education


Directed by Melissa Young, Mark Dworkin

On South Whidbey Island, WA, a school farm shows that a garden can be a valuable addition to the curriculum while encouraging a healthy diet.

On South Whidbey Island in the state of Washington, a school farm involves children from kindergarten through high school in every phase of raising organic vegetables as part of their school experience. Supported by local non-profits, community volunteers, and the school district, it shows that a garden can be a valuable addition to a school curriculum, while encouraging children to eat healthy food. The school farm sells local, organic produce to the school cafeterias and also supplies the local food bank and community nutrition programs with fresh organic produce throughout the growing season.

DVD / 2016 / (Grades 4-12, College, Adults) / 23 minutes

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Directed by Samantha Grant

A group of girls in a remote forest in Paraguay are transformed at an experimental high school where they learn to protect the threatened forest and build a future for themselves.

DAUGHTERS of the FOREST tells the powerful, uplifting story of a small group of girls in one of the most remote forests left on earth who attend a radical high school where they learn to protect the threatened forest and forge a better future for themselves.

Set in the untamed wilds of the Mbaracayu Reserve in rural Paraguay, this intimate verite documentary offers a rare glimpse of a disappearing world where timid girls grow into brave young women even as they are transformed by their unlikely friendships with one another. Filmed over the course of five years, we follow the girls from their humble homes in indigenous villages through the year after their graduation to see exactly how their revolutionary education has and will continue to impact their future lives.

DVD (Closed Captioned) / 2016 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 56 minutes

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Directed by Laura Pacheco, Jackie Mow

Jose Anzaldo is an excellent student with a bright future except that he is undocumented, the child of migrant farm laborers in California's Salinas Valley.

EAST OF SALINAS begins with 3rd grader Jose Anzaldo telling us what he wants to be when he grows up. His parents work from sun up to sun down in the heart of California's "Steinbeck Country," the Salinas Valley. With little support available at home, Jose often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, once a migrant farm kid himself. In fourth grade his teacher told him if he worked hard he could have a different life. Oscar won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. The day he earned his degree, he bought a car and drove home to the fields. He's been teaching ever since.

Jose is Oscar's most gifted student. But how do you teach students like Jose who have no place to do their homework? How do you teach a kid who moves every few months? This is what Oscar is up against every day. Oscar not only teaches his students reading, math and science, he gives them access to a world beyond their reach.

But Jose was born in Mexico--and he's on the cusp of understanding the implications of that. As we watch this play out over three years, we begin to understand the cruelty of circumstance--for Jose and the many millions of undocumented kids like him.

EAST OF SALINAS asks, What is lost when kids like Jose are denied opportunities?

DVD / 2015 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adults) / 53 minutes

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By Richard Barber, Andre Lambertson

The Whole Gritty City is a 90-minute documentary that plunges viewers into the world of three New Orleans school marching bands. The film follows children growing up in America's most musical city, and one of its most dangerous, as their band directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades, and teach them to succeed and to survive. Navigating the urban minefield through moments of setback, loss, discovery, and triumph, these children and their adult leaders reveal the power and resilience of a culture.

The film features three marching bands in the years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city: the O. Perry Walker and L.E. Rabouin high school bands, and The Roots of Music, a new band for middle school-age children. These young beginners in Roots are put through their paces by the program's founder Derrick Tabb, drummer for the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band.

As Mardi Gras approaches and the young musicians progress, the film focuses on a few of these kids. Partly through video they create with portable cameras, we discover their passions and quirks, their personal struggles and tragedies. We come to see the powerful positive role the band plays in their lives. 11-year-old Bear, determined to master the trumpet, lives in the shadow of an older brother murdered at age 19. 18-year-old drum major Skully shouts out to loved ones he's lost to violence, including the band director who was a father figure. 12-year-old Jazz aspires to be a musician like her father, even as her mother struggles to provide for the family. Along with their bandmates these kids enter into the rigors and glory of marching in Mardi Gras parades in front of thousands of cheering spectators.

The film culminates in a different kind of musical performance: a moving funeral tribute by band members from across the city paid to a young man who was one of their own. This New Orleans marching band story is a unique portrayal of an American inner city. It highlights men with an open-eyed, deep commitment to the community they've grown up in and the children in their charge. Viewers who know first-hand the African American urban experience will find a celebration of the strength and insight of these men, and the potential and resilience of their students. Others will find a moving, empathetic portrayal of an unfamiliar world, and come to feel a stake in the struggles and triumphs of these children and their mentors.

DVD / 2014 / 89 minutes

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Directed by Samantha Buck
By Danielle DiGiacomo

JFK High School, located in a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey, is a public school for all types of students with special education needs. Janet Mino has taught her class of young men with autism for four years. When they all graduate, they will leave the security of the public school system forever.

Best Kept Secret follows Ms. Mino and her students over the year and a half before graduation. The clock is ticking to find them a place in the adult world, a job or rare placement in a recreational center, so they do not end up where their predecessors have, sitting at home, institutionalized, or on the streets.

DVD / 2013 / 85 minutes

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Directed by Judd Ehrlich

At the real-life Hogwarts, kids from the world over gather to prove themselves on the stage where superstar magicians got their start.

To escape the pressures of growing up, magic-obsessed kids congregate at the one place they can be themselves: Tannen's Magic Camp, the oldest and most prestigious training ground for young magicians. They want to prove their worth on the same stage where superstars like David Blaine and David Copperfield once performed. But to get there, they need to learn more than sleight of hand and tricks of the trade. They have to find the magic inside.

DVD / 2013 / 87 minutes

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Directed by Lisa Molomot

A year in the life of a forest kindergarten in Switzerland where being outdoors and unstructured play are the main components.

No classroom for these kindergarteners. In Switzerland's Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, children 4 to 7 years of age, go to kindergarten in the woods every day, no matter what the weatherman says. This eye-opening film follows the forest kindergarten through the seasons of one school year and looks into the important question of what it is that children need at that age. There is laughter, beauty and amazement in the process of finding out.

The documentary is a combination of pure observational footage of the children at kindergarten in the forest, paired with interviews with parents, teachers, child development experts, and alumni, offering the viewers a genuine look into the forest kindergarten. There are also scenes of a traditional kindergarten in the United States to show the contrast between the different approaches.

DVD / 2013 / (Grades K-12, College, Adult) / 36 minutes

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By James Takata

We the Parents is a feature-length documentary that follows a courageous group of parents in Compton, CA who lead the first-ever attempt to take over their failing public elementary school using California's new "Parent Trigger" law. The film follows the parents' struggle in Compton, while also explaining the origins of this unprecedented law that invites grassroots change in the public school system. Experts, parents, organizers, journalists, school officials, and politicians provide key insights and lessons about the current educational system and this complex law.

The idea of empowering parents is an untested one, and this film follows every step of the significant controversy, drama, and legal battles that ensue when parents attempt to exercise their rights. As news spreads about the events in Compton, the film tracks the ripple effect of their efforts as the "Parent Trigger" phenomenon spreads to other communities.

We the Parents tells the universal story of parents wanting the best possible education for their children, while examining whether parents can effectively organize to create lasting, positive change for their children.

DVD / 2013 / 60 minutes

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Director: Vanessa Roth

As the debate over America's schools rages on, one thing everyone agrees on is the need for great teachers. While research proves that teachers are the most important school factor in a child's success, American Teacher reveals the frustrations facing today's educators: the difficulty of retaining talented new teachers and why many of the best teachers are forced to leave the profession altogether. Can we reform teaching in the U.S. and turn it into a prestigious, financially attractive and competitive profession?

DVD / 2011 / 81 minutes

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Directed by Tom Weidlinger

Inspirational film that shows a way to bring out the individual talents of five teenagers normally classified as learning disabled.

Wounded by the stigma of being in "special ed" the five teenage protagonists of ORIGINAL MINDS struggle to articulate how their brains work.

Kerrigan is a deep thinker, often seeing connections between disparate ideas and concepts, but when it comes to telling you what you've just said he hasn't a clue.

When Nee Nee writes her fingers have a hard time keeping up with her thoughts.

People often get annoyed with Nattie because she doesn't know when to stop teasing and kidding around.

Marshall spends a lot of time in the bathroom, where his parents can't bug him about homework. He says he wants to "turn over a new leaf" but he's lost nine of his last fifteen math assignments.

Members of Deandre's family tell him he is not college material. He's determined to prove them wrong.

Parents, teachers, friends, therapists, and coaches all weigh in, sometimes with conflicting views, but it's the kids who become the experts in this film, as they work intensively with the filmmaker to tell their stories and discover that they are smarter than they thought. Their narratives reveal the unique approach to learning that each must discern and claim as his or her own if they are to succeed in the world. ORIGINAL MINDS eschews the confusing thicket of labels for learning disorders and reveals universal truths about how we all acquire and process information.

DVD (Closed Captioned) / 2011 / (Grades 9-12, College, Adult) / 57 minutes

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Many say Singapore has the best education system in the world. This film shows how this system has produced such amazing results and how it differs from the educational philosophy as practiced here in the United States.? The system acknowledges that not everyone is "college material" and steers students into the appropriate training or educational course.

The film follows the inspiring stories of two Singaporean school children facing the highest stakes exam of their lives - the primary school leaving exam, or PSLE. It determines where you go to secondary school - and in credential-driven Singaporean society, it is a grade that stays with you for life. We see the hard studies, the tears, the testing grind, the passes and the failures - and learn the surprising way success-driven Singapore handles academic failure -- in a country where the 'Tiger' mom or dad is nothing new. This is an in-depth look at high-stakes testing - and how it affects the lives and psyches of the children.

DVD / 2011 / 60 minutes

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It is the first day of school in Grade 4 of the Shanghai Experimental Primary School. The film follows the chlldren through the whole semester as they learn, misbehave, flirt, play and take exams. Their teachers observe their behavior and progress and share insights with each other.

The focus is on three children, including Gu, a smart boy but a show off, who is often in trouble for fighting and is teased by his classmates for crying when he is ignored.

One of the remarkable features of this film is the naturalness of the pupils who seem oblivious to being filmed. The documentary allows the viewer to see the educational system in China at work. When some children do poorly on a math test the whole class loses points. But much attention is paid to each individual child and the teachers strive to maintain discipline and academic success. In this spontaneous film we see the formation of new generation of Chinese children.

DVD / 2011 / 59 minutes

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Blind musician, Sorie Kondi, from Sierra Leone looks at what's happening with girls' education in his country 10 years after civil war.

Musician Sorie Kondi, blind from birth, has been called Sierra Leone's Stevie Wonder, but he's still trying to make it as a world musician. Sorie worries about the future of his 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab. He manages to make enough as a busker to pay for her education, but keeping Zeinab out of trouble is more difficult. She lives with her cousins, who have all had to leave school early because of pregnancy. Life asked Sorie to help us make a road movie looking at what's happening with girls' education around the country 10 years after civil war.

DVD / 2010 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 27 minutes

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Directed by John Paskievich and John Whiteway

An after-school storytelling project in a diverse, but divided, city school breaks cultural boundaries and creates community.

Located in Winnipeg's downtown core, Gordon Bell High School is probably the most culturally varied school in the city, with 58 different languages spoken by the student body. Many students are children who have arrived as refugees from various war torn areas of the world.

In an effort to build bridges of friendship and belonging across cultures and histories, teacher Marc Kuly initiated an after-school storytelling project whereby the immigrant students would share stories with their Canadian peers.

The catalyst for this cross-cultural interaction was the students' reading of A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, a memoir of Beah's horrific time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone's civil war.
These voluntary after-school meetings take dramatic turns and reach their climax when Ishmael Beah and professional storyteller Laura Simms travel from New York to work with them. With their help the students learn to listen to each other and find the commonality that so long eluded them.

DVD / 2009 / (Grades 10-12, College, Adult) / 59 minutes

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Directed by Dick Bower

The private school option in a Lagos shantytown.

Makoko is a shantytown on the edge of Lagos, the largest city in West Africa. Space is precious, so Makoko stretches out into the lagoon, where many of the houses are built on stilts. Average income in Makoko is about fifty dollars a month. In Nigeria ninety per cent of people live on less than two dollars a day. According to UNICEF, less than half the children of primary school age get an education, with school fees as high as ten dollars. However, new research reveals that parents here are prepared to pay to get their children educated.

The people of Makoko appear to have a choice: Children can go to the free state school, or they can pay at one of a growing number of small, private schools that have opened there. Research into how and why these private schools have emerged in such unlikely circumstances has been organized by a team from the University of Newcastle-upon- Tyne. Their research reveals that in communities like Makoko, parents are voting with their feet. They think the state system has failed, and a new and interesting grass roots movement in education seems to be the result.

DVD (Color) / 2005 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 23 minutes

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Education and community-driven development combat poverty in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Shilmundi is a village in the vast Delta in the south of Bangladesh. The children here attend a local school, and come together to study after hours, a sign of their enthusiasm for learning. But the real question is how long they'll be able to continue. This program looks at two very different approaches to improving the lives of poor people -- one through education, as in the Shilmundi project in Bangladesh, the other through what's known as "community-driven development" in Indonesia.

Life asks whether projects like these can be replicated in other countries trying to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015.

DVD (Color) / 2004 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 26 minutes

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Director: Leslie Sullivan

In an era when Dick, Jane, and discipline ruled America's schools, Albert Cullum allowed Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Shaw to reign in his fifth grade public school classroom. Through the use of poetry, drama and imaginative play, Cullum championed an unorthodox educational philosophy that spoke directly to his students' needs. Many of Cullum's projects were recorded on film by then novice filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr. Weaving stunning black and white footage and rare archival television broadcasts together with interviews of Cullum and his former students, this is a portrait of a maverick teacher who transformed a generation of young people by enabling them to discover their own inner greatness.

DVD / 2004 / 54 minutes

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The odds are against girls getting an education in Zimbabwe and throughout much of Africa.

Twelve-year old Lucia's dream is to be able to graduate to secondary school, and stay there-to finish the 12th grade and go on to train as a pilot. Her older sister Barita wants to do computer studies. And Portia, the youngest in the family, wants to be a dressmaker.

But tragically for these three sisters from one of Zimbabwe's large scale commercial farms, in tobacco country 50 miles outside Harare, they're more likely to end up -- as their mothers before them -- with no formal education, working as seasonal laborers on the farm. The three sisters are AIDS orphans being brought up by their grandmother. She can only afford school fees for one girl, Lucia, to attend primary school.

Across Africa, the odds are dramatically against girls getting an education. And even if they do attend primary school, they're often withdrawn before they finish -- to work as unpaid laborers for their extended family, to be married off or to have children. Only one in four school age girls in Burkina Faso ever attends school.

Across the continent only 24 percent of girls actually complete primary school, compared to 65-70% for boys. As Harry Sawyer, Minister for Education in Ghana, wrote in a recent UNICEF report, the obstacles to girls' education are the same as those that undermine economic and social development everywhere "but in the end, all the reasons add up to one: insufficient will."

DVD (Color) / 2000 / (Grades 7-12, College, Adult) / 24 minutes

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