Inspiring docu promotes power of family in early education.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tomorrow's Hope is a documentary short that examines the success of Educare, a bold early childhood education program for children from underserved communities. Originally called "The Beethoven Project," Educare opened inside a government housing project in Chicago's South Side, pairing free daycare with social services and implementing a model of whole-family learning. Using a "birth to 5" approach, the program's focus is on social-emotional learning and teaching educational fundamentals inside a safe, positive environment -- and it has yielded phenomenal results. The movie follows three teens from Educare's inaugural year as they go to prom, graduate high school, and look forward to promising careers that could benefit their communities as well. There are clear themes of empathy, gratitude, perseverance, and teamwork -- but there are also verbal references to shootings and stabbings and their impact on children in the community, as well as brief news footage of a covered body being wheeled out by EMTs, and an implied suicide attempt by one of the featured teens. One use of "s--t."
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What's the Story?
When the Ounce of Prevention organization created "The Beethoven Project" to combine preschool and services for children living in impoverished areas of Chicago's South Side, they faced incredible hurdles. Through the stories of three of the project's now-teenage alumni, TOMORROW'S HOPE looks back at how the project (eventually renamed Educare) succeeded despite significant challenges.
Is It Any Good?
Educare's innovation in early childhood education is inspiring, but the film tries to tell too much in less than an hour -- and then ultimately doesn't tell enough. The documentary clearly shows the significant challenges involved with opening and operating an educational daycare facility in the United States' largest public housing project. Interviewees discuss the intensity of running a preschool in an area known for its frequent violence -- and the impressive fact that they managed to maintain their programs after the City of Chicago demolished the project's housing structures and scattered residents throughout the city. It's thanks to strong will, passion, and perseverance that the founders and administrators at Ounce of Prevention pushed through. They are unquestionably role models.
Knowing that the first five years of a child's life are crucial, Ounce's child development professionals believed they had a chance to change a child's future by involving their parents/caregivers in their education. They also offered kids tools to understand their feelings, express themselves, and learn how to get along better. And, through the stories of three of the program's success stories -- teens who started in the program's first year and are now graduating high school with big hopes and dreams -- it's evident they succeeded, thanks to a combination of that foundation and adult support. That said, Educare's proprietary methods are somewhat glossed over as concepts instead of specific guidance, so it can be a little unclear what "whole family learning" and "socio-emotional tools" mean, exactly, if you're not already familiar with this space. It's wonderful to see that this program, now expanded into 25 locations, is helping children who need it, but there's not much to take away on how to apply it outside of their system.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the importance of early childhood education. Do all U.S. citizens have equitable access to education from the youngest ages?
What factors impact a child's ability to learn? What systemic problems contribute to educational outcomes in underserved communities?
What do you think the program means by "teaching a whole family"? In what ways can parents and caregivers support children's education, financially or otherwise?
Why are problem-solving, conflict management, and self-regulation skills essential life skills?
Which of the interview subjects do you consider role models? How did the different people interviewed demonstrate perseverance, gratitude, resilience, and teamwork, and why are these important characteristics? How was The Beethoven Project founded in empathy?
- In theaters: May 21, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: March 21, 2023
- Cast: Brenda Eiland-Williford, Jamal Poindexter
- Director: Thomas A. Morgan
- Studio: Abramorama
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Gratitude, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 47 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 17, 2023
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