Every summer, and perhaps this summer more than others, our kids want (and need) downtime. Yet, as parents we often want to keep things balanced and many families that educate their students at home take a more flexible approach — learning year round, rather than dividing up learning into a distinct school year. Whatever your parenting and education approach, I’m sure you agree that youth benefit from experiences that sharpen their critical thinking skills and encourage them to engage more deeply with the world around them. Film can be a fun way to do both this summer and besides, who doesn’t love a family movie night!
Learning Through Film
As a parent, home educator, filmmaker and teaching artist, I’ve long advocated for the use of films as educational tools. Youth today are inundated with media, so teaching them how to analyze and engage with media and using carefully curated media to broaden their understanding of the world and to build empathy and critical thinking skills is beneficial on multiple levels.
Journeys in Film is a non-profit focused on building empathy and fostering inclusion and culturally responsive teaching through the effective use of film. Their resource library features FREE curricula and discussion guides for both documentary and narrative films as well as some compelling National Geographic series.
A great way to integrate these materials as part of summer family movie night is to select one of the films for which Journeys In Film has created a discussion guide and then to pull interesting questions from that guide that will speak to your family’s interests.
Films For Young Science Lovers
Got a science or nature lover in the family? Then consider The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (perfect for older kids who are engineering minded or who love to tinker), JANE, a Nation Geographic film about Jane Goodall or Hidden Figures. I integrated both The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Hidden Figures into my homeschooling experience with my 9 and 11 year-old children this past school year and pulled elements from the Journeys in Film curricula and discussion guides that integrated well with our science and history lessons.
Learning Through Film Inspired by Real Life
Got a voracious YA reader at home? Take advantage of the free discussion guides or curricula available for films that inspired by true stories, for which there are great book pairings like I Am Malala (book) and He Named Me Malala (film), The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (book and film of the same name), The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster (book) and Disney’s Queen of Katwe.
Poetry Lover at home? What about reading Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet as a family and watching the beautiful animated film of the same name and then expanding the experience through Journeys In Film curriculum resources, including beautiful art experiences.
Or expand global learning and understanding through various films that can take your family around the world through some beautiful films that engage and excite children. Check out this piece in Multicultural Kid Blogs for great recommendations.
Make the most of your movie nights, discover new films or revisit favorites with an expanded view through the free resources available with Journeys In Film.
More Summer Fun For The Family:
Writer, film producer, and educator
Jennifer’s work focuses on highlighting shared human experiences to cultivate empathy and understanding. Her films have screened across the United States and abroad and have been featured by NBCLatino, ABC, Univision, Fusion, NBCBLK, Vice News, and others with her film “THE wHOLE” premiering at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference. She has developed curriculum for LA’s BEST, the Metta Center for Nonviolence and in conjunction with the Outreach Center for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, where she received her M.A. She is currently the Outreach Director for Journeys In Film. You can connect with Journeys In Film on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.