Films & Video

The Mind of a Child / L'Esprit d'un Enfant

Review of The Mind of a Child by New Horizons for Learning

 

 

Recommended Viewing

The Mind of a Child: Working with children
affected by poverty, racism, and war

Producer/Director: Gary Marcuse, Associate Producer: Lorna Williams .
Face to Face Media, Ltd. 1995. (59 min. 30 sec.) VHS, Closed captioned.
Produced in association with the National Film Board of Canada,
Produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada
Produced in association with British Columbia Film
Produced in association with Knowledge Network/Open Learning Agency.
Information on ordering the video

 


A new film explores the heart of Reuven Feuerstein's mediated learning theory, based on his observation of the cognitive development of children.


For many years New Horizons for Learning has followed the work of Professor Reuven Feuerstein with great interest. Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist, believes that the transmission of culture from parents and adult mentors to children is essential to their cognitive development.

This film will be of particular interest to anyone working with children at risk. The children in the film are fascinating to watch. Their strengths are hidden at first but they gradually blossom under the patient guidance of adults. Children in British Columbia, Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem are shown responding to Feuerstein's methods. Their teachers clearly enjoy their contact with these challenging, interesting young people.

The risk many children face is not that their parents cannot raise them but that for a variety of reasons their communities do not support normal give and take between productive, useful adults and their children. The film clearly shows the circumstances in which a community begins to unravel and the effect on the children. It is hard not to agree with Feuerstein and Williams when you see the contrast between children in troubled communities where adults are displaced and not in control of their lives and children growing up in a healthy, supportive environment. The children on the streets and in the camps have blank, hostile, and worried expressions. Children shown working with adults on shared tasks seem bright, inquisitive, and fully engaged. Their faces tell the story best.

This is an inspiring, compelling documentary. Watch Feuerstein, Williams, and the many teachers who share their vision and see that all children can learn more effectively and that our communities must begin to better support children and families. Feuerstein's theories are demonstrably effective across cultures and initial ability levels. His techniques demonstrate his theory that intelligence is plastic, and that it can be enhanced.

Feuerstein began his career teaching disturbed children in Bucharest at the beginning of World War II. He later escaped and fled to Palestine where he worked with thousands of child survivors of the Holocaust. Since then, he has taught and studied the children of Berber, Moroccan, and Ethiopian refugees whose immigration to Israel had profoundly transformed their lives. Cut off from traditional occupations and support networks, family ties disintegrated and children began to show an inability to organize and process the vast sensory data of the world. He was able to develop materials and techniques for assessing and mediating the learning process. His goal is to reveal the existing intelligence and abilities of children, helping them build the skills they lack. The video shows several examples of children being led by a mediating adult through the processes of discovering that they can think through a problem and that of discovering new strategies for seeing patterns and relationships.

Lorna Williams, coproducer of the film, is a member of the St'at'yemc Nation. She grew up on the Mt.Currie reserve, a few hours north of British Columbia in Canada. She experienced cultural dislocation first hand; she was part of the last of four generations of children in her community who were sent away to residential schools by government order. However, when she was young, there were still people alive who remembered a time before colonial rule and she was able to establish relationships with adults who taught her about her heritage and traditions and the language of her people when she was home on holiday.

As an adult Lorna set out to help aboriginal children in British Columbia who were dropping out of school, losing hope, and committing suicide. Her research led her to Feuerstein whose success with displaced populations gave her the idea that his theories might be applicable to B.C.'s aboriginal children. They were experiencing the same lack of connection with their environment that she had faced in the residential school and that Feuerstein's refugees had experienced as well. After studying with him in Israel, she returned to Canada to modify his approach to meet the needs of her special population.

She has organized teams of First Nation leaders to work with the 2000 aboriginal children in the Vancouver School District. and created the Variety Learning Center where children can be assessed and teachers trained to use Feuerstein's assessment instruments and teaching methods. More than a thousand teachers have attended classes there. Lorna conducts workshops in Western Canada and in the United States for schools and learning organizations.

Producer and Director Gary Marcuse focuses on the children in this film and that brings the documentary to life. The viewer comes to care about these young people and their teachers, wanting to know more about them. It is hard not to think that perhaps many children as interesting languish in environments where they are not understood, encouraged and cherished. An inspirational film, highly recommended.

How to Order the Video

To order please contact the producers
Betsy Carson
Face to Face Media
1818 Grant Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada  V5L 2Y8
mailto: carson@smartt.com
Tel 604 251-0770 Fax 604 251-9149

Cost is $US 48 ($CAD in Canada) plus $8 for airmail shipping and handling

for more information please contact the director Gary Marcuse   marcuse@smartt.com

 


© September 1995 New Horizons for Learning
http://www.newhorizons.org