Thursday, December 10, 2009

Relevance and making a connection in today's world

One of the biggest challenges in teaching the Holocaust, I believe, comes after students have completed your planned activities and begin asking, “What can we do now; what can one person do to keep this from happening again?” Another side to this issue is how can we speak out against the genocides that are happening in our time.

Students are most ready to respond and act immediately after their study of the Holocaust, so having some responses and actions for them to consider at that time is important. This is also an opportune time to discuss world responses and actions following the end of World War II. A quick and interesting way to do this is to share the book For Every Child (published in conjunction with UNICEF) to illustrate the rights that every child in the world should have (similar to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948). The book, which you can loan from the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education's Resource Center, is appropriate for use with all grade levels and is beautifully illustrated.

Before I read the book to students, I ask them to work in groups of three or four to list ten rights that all teenagers should have. The groups share and generate a class list of rights. The class votes on the top ten rights, which we then post in the classroom. Then students discuss the importance of rights in general, why we have guarantee rights, the history of rights in our country, what rights Jews and other groups were denied during the Holocaust and why.

After reading the book aloud and sharing the illustrations with the students, we discuss the differences between the rights on the class list and the rights in the book. This brings to light many rights that the students take for granted and raises their awareness of the conditions other children throughout the world are forced to live in.

A natural follow-up is to help the class plan an activity that will benefit children in countries currently experiencing genocides. Jewish World Watch sponsors four relief campaigns which students could easily support as well as educational and support information.

Please share activities you use to help your students respond to current genocides. The larger our community, the better resources we can make available for everyone!

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