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The start of the school year can be such an exciting time for students - gathering of supplies, the return of the backpack, reuniting with fellow students and favorite teachers. Back to school also marks the start of our Education Outreach Screenings, where annually we welcome over 5,000 Chicago Public School students from more than 40 Chicago Public Schools into theaters throughout the school year (held at Columbia College Chicago) and during the Chicago International Film Festival (held at AMC River East 21) for unique, one-of-a-kind screenings. The program - now more than twenty years old - provides CPS students and educators access to international and local feature, documentary and short films - introducing them to films they likely won’t see anywhere else and helping them see the world outside their school, community and city through the art of film.

 For each film, study guides are prepared and distributed to teachers for use in the classroom with students both before and after screenings. These guides provide background to the cultural context of the film, highlight themes and historical references, and introduce questions that encourage in-depth and personal examinations of film subject matter.

The study guide questions vary - from inquiries into the student’s reactions to questions requiring additional classroom research, as well as discussion prompts regarding the film’s visual style and structure - facilitating the teachers’ integration of the film into their classroom curriculum.

Each of the screenings is followed by a 20-30 minute question-and-answer session with filmmakers, documentary subjects, and/or film and video professionals and professors who engage students in discussion to further their understanding of the film and its themes. These discussion sessions are designed to be both participatory and rich in educational content, and students are encouraged to freely express their views and questions about issues raised in the film.

The goals of the Education Outreach Screenings are not only to give students from across the city and of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to view one-of-a-kind films but also, in the process, to transform them from passive audience members to active, engaged viewers and thinkers. 

Because Chicago Public School teachers have limited financial resources to provide students with arts education field trip experiences, Cinema/Chicago provides buses, theaters, films, speakers, study guides, and teacher support entirely free of charge.

For more information about the Education Outreach Program, please visit

For information about how to support the program, please contact Development Manager Erin Payton at

Rebecca Fons
Education Program Manager