The nonprofit Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival (PHEFF) was created in 2017 by founders Debra Wolf Goldstein (executive director) and Alexandra Drobac Diagne (artistic director) “to bring the planet to Philadelphia through the power of environmental film.” PHEFF showcased hundreds of exceptional new short and feature-length environmental and nature films, with thousands of people throughout the region attending and enjoying PHEFF’s Earth Month festival every April. This event included a juried selection of new American and international films in a wide variety of genres; a student film competition; film awards in multiple categories; exciting Q&As and panel discussions with film directors and subject matter experts; and a fun Opening Night party for donors and supporters. PHEFF also created popular youth workshops, hosted special film events throughout the year, and screened entertaining summer films at multiple sites in partnership with local nonprofits and government agencies.
Past Youth Programs
From the beginning, youth environmental education was central to PHEFF’s mission.
Between 2017 and 2022, PHEFF:
curated dozens of entertaining short and feature films aimed at young people;
sponsored school trips to the theater so students could watch films and take part in specially-created interactive programs;
funded and distributed curriculum guides for select films;
distributed outstanding enviro films directly to participating schools;
awarded juried “student film” prizes as part of the annual festival;
developed hands-on workshops for young aspiring filmmakers; and
brought in filmmakers of youth-oriented films to talk to young audiences.
Youth Film Program (2022)
For the 2022 film festival, PHEFF contracted with the Philadelphia Film Society to run a youth film program that reached 1,300 Philadelphia-area elementary, middle, and high school students from 24 schools.
Each film was paired with a teacher’s guide containing info on media literacy, youth activism, and biodiversity/climate change.
The guides included discussion prompts and suggestions for pre- and post-screening classroom activities and additional reading. Students praised the program, with 78% saying they learned something new, and 90% of the teachers rating the program as 5/5, with 100% expressing interest in participating again. All teachers surveyed said the program being free was a top factor in their ability to participate.
Kids’ Planet Program (2017–2021)
As part of the annual film festival, PHEFF presented an entertaining half-day program of environmental films and hands-on activities for hundreds of middle-grade Philadelphia-area students. Programs included films by and for kids; lesson plans on plastic pollution and other topics; in-person Q&As with film directors; and fun activities designed to spark interest in environmentalism and filmmaking.
Partners included the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, PhillyCAM, and Philadelphia School District’s Green Futures team. One year the kids even had a surprise visit from the Phillie Phanatic!
From Teachers and Students
“[My students] got to see experiences around the world that they have never considered before and viewed themselves as fortunate for not having to be in that space or have that experience. They also realized more about how the climate changing can impact humans on a major scale.”