Program at Kozminski Elementary puts films into focus

Staff Writer

The International Children’s Media Center recently hosted an interactive screening of short children’s films for parents and students who participated in the center’s My First Media program at Kozminski Elementary School. During the screening families saw 10 short films from eight countries.

The International Children’s Media Center (ICMC) is a Chicago-based non-profit that was founded by Nicole Dreiske, who also founded the Chicago International Children’s Festival. Dreiske now uses her film connections for a more direct educational purpose.

By the time children start school they have already watched more than 1,400 hours of electronic media, movies, TV and web offerings, said David Orlikoff, education coordinator at ICMC.

“When preparing dinner or doing other chores parents often put their kids in front of the TV, phone or tablet which seems like a waste of time,” Orlikoff said. “Through mindful viewing we turn film into text so that it benefits kids.”

Orlikoff said the center visited the Pre-K to 1st grade classrooms at Kozminski, 936 E. 54th St., twice a week for about 12 weeks to help students begin to think and talk about what they watch on TV. This is the center’s fourth year working with the school.

“It’s a great way to teach literature because it’s using something that kids are already engaged in and excited about,” Orlikoff said.

The three-part process of the film viewings include the presenter’s explanation of what the class is going to do, viewing a two-to-five-minute short film and asking children questions about what they’ve just viewed. The presenters also pause the film throughout to ask questions. The students use visual, audio, touch and music language and pronunciation skills during the exercises.

Orlikoff said the program’s interdisciplinary and multisensory approach to learning makes it compatible with the Common Core State Standards.

Although the program does not have access to state test scores they do self administer pre and post tests.

Myron Hester, principal of Kozminski, did not return phone calls to discuss the impact that the program has had on the students, but Kozminski parent Thomas Schmidt said his 2-year-old daughter Charlotte has benefitted from the program.

“The big thing I noticed is that Charlotte is incorporating the vocabulary from the films into her everyday language,” Schmidt said. “Also, she was so excited about one of the films that she came home and told me and my wife all about it and when we went to the family screening it was exactly as she described it.”

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture and civic leader and Hyde Park resident Anne Marie Miles supported the family screening at Kozminski.

Miles said she saw that Kozminski really wanted the My First Media program but ICMC couldn’t find the money needed to pull the screening together so she helped out.

Miles, who attended the screening, said she is impressed by the center’s work with the students.

“As soon as Nicole came out to explain the program the children started tapping their temples to get their minds engaged,” Miles said. “It’s interesting to hear them talking about the films. I could see they were really excited.”

Miles said that Dreiske is currently in talks with Kozminski about using multimedia to help older students who struggle with reading.