Blossoming Families

BLOSSOMING FAMILIES is a short documentary that explores how a low-cost, multicultural arts, music and literacy program for children and their families is strengthening the San Antonio neighborhood in East Oakland, California.  A diverse group of families who attend the Lotus Bloom Child and Family Resource Center share their stories of transformation and growth.  Alijah Jones, a three year old, has become more social and is learning Spanish.  Sienna Howard, a two year old, knows songs in Spanish and Chinese, and has learned how to happily share. These and other families show how early childhood experiences designed to spark all senses, positively impact both child development and family bonding.   

East Oakland has the reputation of being a dangerous neighborhood; but it is in this same neighborhood that Lotus Bloom provides a safe and supportive space for families of different backgrounds to come together and build a thriving community. Through singing, storytelling and play, we hope this film will demonstrate how low-cost, creative programming benefits child development, empowers families and creates stronger communities.


Discussion Guide*

This guide highlights the film's main themes and poses questions that can be used to initiate discussion in a class or community settings about the importance of affordable, creative, multicultural child and family educational centers.


  • Affordable school readiness programs are necessary for low income, immigrant families to give their children the chance to excel.
  • Structured early childhood programs that provide school readiness concepts are critical to a child's cognitive and social development, which not only benefits the individual child but also the larger society.
  • Family resource centers like Lotus Bloom provide safe environments for children and parents to learn and thrive.
  • Lotus Bloom enables children to discover creativity while stimulating their educational abilities to prepare them for school.

Discussion Questions  

  • How do under-resourced communities like those in East Oakland benefit from low-cost, multicultural family resource centers, such as Lotus Bloom?
  • Why is it important for all of the senses to be stimulated?
  • How would this help/affect children when they start school?
  • How can exposing children to a multitude of cultures at a young age help create more understanding and respect for different ethnic groups?

One of the unique features of the playgroups at Lotus Bloom is that parents/caretakers are required to attend with their children.

  • How is this beneficial to the children and parents?
  • What type of programming would you design for a family resource center?
  • What are your previous experiences with children centers?
  • What are your own childhood experiences?  Or taking your child to a center? 
  • How have you or your child been affected?


Facts & Resources

Lotus Bloom is a multicultural organization that develops and provides innovative programs for inner-city children, youth and families. Through our creative programming, we seek to empower individuals to realize their full potential and transcend their dreams into reality. We provide arts, crafts, music, and literacy activities to help promote language development and early learning experiences. We are dedicated to working with diverse populations and seek to connect people of different backgrounds to work collaboratively. 

  • Research shows that children who attend a pre-school program are better prepared for success in kindergarten and beyond. 
  • Despite these findings, children from low income families are often least likely to receive such care before entering kindergarten. 
  • Establishing a safe, secure and predictable environment for children is the best way to create the foundations of learning in infancy and childhood. This is the first basic rule of building a child's brain development.


Meet the Filmmakers




NATALIE MARTENS grew up in the hills of Wine Country and used the expansive hills and valleys as a backdrop for many a music video during her early years. The start of Natalie's love of film came during high school when she directed the Spanish version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for a Spanish class. Subsequently, the film won Best Picture and Best Director in the Spanish Academy Awards, and she keeps that paper Oscar on a gold mantel. Kidding! From there, San Francisco State University furthered her exploration of film, and during her third year, she studied abroad in England at the University of East Anglia to gain different perspectives about film theory. She has worked on the independent film Little Bruno (2007) as a production assistant, and has interned with both KQED on This Week in Northern California, and the 2009 Mill Valley Film Festival. She graduated in December 2009, and hopes to have a career that combines her interest in film with her love of travel.


BLANCA PACHECO was born in Guatemala and raised in South Central Los Angeles. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from the University of Southern California and is currently completing a pre-health post baccalaureate program at San Francisco State University. Growing up in an underserved neighborhood with scarce health resources, she grew up conscious of the need for healthcare access to all, especially those in low-income areas.  Blanca joined the film and documentary class to learn about ways in which film/visual media can collaborate with public health to bridge the health information and healthcare access gap in low income communities. Blanca aims to do community-based health interventions around Type II diabetes, obesity and teen pregnancy in South Central Los Angeles and other underserved communities.


MICHELLE PLASCENCIA was born and raised in Southern California and moved to San Francisco in 2006 to receive her B.A in Film and Spanish at San Francisco State University. Michelle enjoys attending music and arts festivals, relaxing at the park, and embracing the unique city of San Francisco while accompanied by good friends.  She continues to practice her Spanish while working at an after school program in the Mission District. Michelle loves to visit family in Mexico every chance she gets and hopes to eventually move to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico after graduating in Spring 2011. Her passion for film derives from the impact the art can have on and individual, emotionally and visually. After interning with the Bay Area International Latino Film Festival 2008 and soon for the San Francisco International Film Festival 2010, Michelle hopes to pursue her film career through the film festival industry. Michelle intends to work on films that impact social change, which work to bring awareness to areas in need. She loves to explore the art of foreign, independent film and aspires to continue traveling while eventually working for festivals. 


*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute