Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to teach a quality Holocaust unit in a high school AP course

Six years ago I began teaching AP European History in my high school instead of the regular World History class. I was excited about the challenge but also concerned about how much material I was expected to teach in such a short period of time. As a World History teacher I had the luxury of spending two to three weeks each year on my Holocaust unit. Shortly after the school year started it became clear to me that I would be lucky to have five class periods for my Holocaust unit in AP European History. Having studied the Holocaust for many years it was impossible to imagine cutting out certain lessons or topics because they all seemed very important to me. So how did I tackle this challenge? Below is the process I followed in creating my new Holocaust unit.

  1. Create an overview lesson. (1-2 days) - I wanted to be sure that my students had a general overview of the Holocaust before beginning my unit. I put together a power point presentation that included lots of visuals to use as we talked about different topics on the Holocaust.

    Topics I included in my overview:

    A. Antisemitism

    B. Problems in Germany Post WWI

    C. Rise of Nazism/Hitler

    D. Nuremberg Laws

    E. Kristallnacht

    F. Isolation of the Jews

    G. The Ghettos

    H. The Camps

    I. The Final Solution

    J. Jewish Resistance

    K. US/World Response

    L. Liberation

  2. Have your students submit questions/topics that they would like to spend additional time on. Once my students had submitted their lists, I pulled lessons from my previous Holocaust units that matched these lists. It gave me an opportunity to still use some of my best lessons, but also a chance to work with students on topics they felt they should learn more about.

  3. Using the MCHE resources http://www.mchekc.org and USHMM website http://www.ushmm.org, create 1 day lessons that fit with some of these topics the students have an interest in studying in more depth. (3 days)

Post AP Exam:

After my students take the AP Exam in early May we typically have several weeks left of school that are much more flexible for me when it comes to content/lessons. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss current issues facing the world today. During this time I incorporate lessons on recent genocides (Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur) which allows me to bring in some additional information about the Holocaust. We have discussed the events of these genocides, analyzed documents related to each, and done photo analysis.

One of the things I have come to realize over the past six years is that I can still provide my students with a valuable learning experience even though I only have a short period of time to work with. Ultimately, it is my hope that my students will be curious enough from our discussions to seek out additional information about the Holocaust.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Connections for Black History Month

Teaching the Holocaust to inner city students is a crucial part of their education. In my first year at a school where the students are predominantly African American and living in generational poverty, I discovered that my students weren’t aware that others had suffered discrimination at a great cost, too. During my first Black History Month at that school, most student-initiated conversation regarding the civil rights movement began with, “all of the white people didn’t like black people, and so...” Not only were they unaware of the history of other groups, but they did not know that people of other ethnicities, among them Jews and Holocaust survivors, had a large role in starting and financially backing many important civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP.

I first investigated why the students weren’t aware of the role of many who weren’t African American, including Jews, had in the civil rights movement. I polled students, and found that the length of a generation in the families of my school were shorter than average. Couple that with a lower average lifespan, and I began to see that the knowledge wasn’t there because, in their community, possible participants might not be around to give a first-hand account of the civil rights movement.

We began with comparing Jim Crow laws to the Nuremburg Laws. Students responded very positively to the information, and began to understand that many have been oppressed. Even the more disconnected students wanted to participate and learn.

The next year, Black History Month was much different. Students’ explanations began with, “many blacks were being oppressed, and so many people of ALL walks of life worked together to…”

Websites to investigate:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race - Educator Information


March 16 - June 10, 2010
National Archives at Kansas City
400 West Pershing Road
Kansas City, Missouri

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, features original artifacts, photographs, documents and historic film footage illustrating how Hitler’s Nazi regime attempted to implement its vision of an ethnically homogeneous community through a program of racial eugenics that culminated in the Holocaust.

Free tours are available for groups in grades 9 and up. Groups of up to 60 students are recommended, but larger groups can be arranged. One adult per 15 students is required. Please allow 1 hour to tour the exhibit. Contact Lori Cox-Paul, Education Specialist at NARA, at 816-268-8017 or lori.cox-paul@nara.gov to schedule at tour. Resources and lesson plans appropriate for use in high school classrooms are available by clicking here.

Bus subsidies of up to $200 per school are available for high school field trips to Deadly Medicine. Applications received by February 16, 2010 will receive priority consideration. Please complete the following application and submit to MCHE by faxing to 913-327-8193 or mailing to 5801 West 115th Street, Suite 106 ~ Overland Park, KS 66211. Contact Jessica Rockhold at schools@mchekc.org or 913-327-8195 with questions or to discuss your level of need. CLICK HERE FOR BUS SUBSIDY APPLICATION.

Educator Training and Preview of the Exhibition
March 10, 2010 ~ 4:30-8:00 ~ National Archives at Kansas City
The evening will include brief remarks by Jessica Rockhold of MCHE and Lori Cox-Paul of National Archives, a presentation by USHMM Regional Educator Renee Kaplan on Eugenics and the Nazi Racial State, lesson plans for classroom use, and a tour of the exhibit before it opens to the public. Light meal will be provided. Please RSVP to Jessica Rockhold at schools@mchekc.org or 913-327-8195 with your name and school contact information by March 5, 2010.

The Complicity of Educators in Nazi Germany
May 12, 2010 ~ 4:30-5:30 ~ National Archives at Kansas City
This presentation by Dr. William Meinecke, historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will explore the complicity of professional educators in Nazi Germany, specifically the indoctrination of children. Participants are welcome to stay for Dr. Meinecke's 7:00 presentation on Medical Ethics and Nazi Ideology. Please RSVP to Jessica Rockhold at schools@mchekc.org or 913-327-8195 with your name and school contact information by May 7, 2010.
Presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in partnership with the National Archives at Kansas City and in cooperation with the Center for Practical Bioethics.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Analyzing Holocaust Images: Photographs

Even though this generation has had more images pass by their eyes than any previous one in history, it is still amazing how few of us take the time to stop and really LOOK at what we are seeing.

When discussing the Holocaust, it is particularly important to be able to critically analyze an image. Museum educators at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are careful to use the adjective “actual” in front of the word photograph when referring to specific objects in their collection. That seemed odd to me, at first, having taught photography for years. A photo is a photo, right?

But then, I heard a docent on a USHMM tour make an interesting comment in answer to a question about the large photograph of bales of human hair on exhibit near the collection of shoes from Auschwitz. She said “we own the actual bales of hair, and some day, we may have to put them on exhibit as well.” Why? There is a potential “downside” to the wonders of modern technology. If we have so many readily available devices which can simply scan and “recreate” or “doctor” an image, what is to be believed? If a photograph can now be tampered with by any of a number of software tools, how can we know when it represents absolute reality? What truths can then, by inference, be denied if they cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt? Particularly as we draw near to the time when the generation of Holocaust survivors is disappearing, and our second generation (children of survivors) is presenting testimony that is passed down to them, there is more “wiggle room” which could be used as fuel for the fires of Holocaust deniers. “How do I know that photo is real, and has not been Photo shopped or touched up?”

A simple way to analyze photos with your students is to generate a class list to refer to when looking at a photograph. Start with a photographic image (projected, from a print source, or reproduced if it is in the public domain) and 4 columns headed: 1)what I see
2)what this gives me
3)what this is made with
4) possible reasons for making this.

What I see can include “one thing to look at” or “several things to look at” as well as a list of the obvious recognizable items – house, people, fences.

What this gives me might include “memories of,” “questions about,” “answers to . . .,” “a glimpse into . . ."

Expand on a camera for what this is made with. Encourage students to add things like “risks, bravery, hands, eyes, a tripod, a concealed camera” and fold in the formal qualities or elements and principles of design such as types of lines, shapes, colors, shadows, strong implied diagonals, illusions of form.

Finally, under possible reasons for making this be sure and go beyond “because it was someone’s job.” Each time, include a final item in the column that lends itself to the “not clear” category. Open-ended choices such as “I am not sure,” and “something that is very hard to say” will show that artists and photographers are choosing to communicate with colors, shapes, and lines instead of words, reinforcing the power of the image. Weaving in and out of the columns, and guiding with simple questions, can lead to in-depth dialogue that can last several minutes per picture. Reuse and expand your columns over time as you discuss more and more photos.

USHMM Photo Archives Online