Thursday, April 22, 2010

Student tours of Deadly Medicine - a teacher's perspective

My colleague and I, took our students to the Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race exhibit. The field trip occurred prior to our coverage of World War II and the Holocaust so we included a pre-trip introduction to help our students glean as much as possible from our visit. We have been talking about the exhibit since we planned the trip in the fall so students were very aware of the upcoming experience. Since our students were well prepared, it was a worthwhile opportunity to help students further understand the complexities surrounding the Holocaust.

Pre-trip preparation:
We first talked with our students about prior knowledge of the Holocaust. Then, the term of eugenics was introduced. The provisions of the Treaty of Versailles were reviewed to set the political and economic stage of post WWI Europe.

As a class, we then watched the Curator’s overview from the USHMM website as well as read & discussed The Doctors Trial: The Medical Case of the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. This helped to introduce students to the concept that politicians and doctors played a critical role in the implementation of the Final Solution.

When my colleague and I attended the Educator preview of the Deadly Medicine exhibit, we created an exhibit assignment that anchored the students throughout the actual exhibit. Click here for the assignment and teacher guide - the assignment is the first link on this page. We provided the assignment ahead of time so students knew our expectations upon arrival.

Field trip:
NARA rotated us through various stations. When a group entered the Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race they began Side 1 of the assignment which asked them to jot down two details for major themes throughout the exhibit on a graphic organizer. Side 2 provided an opportunity for students to select an option (video segment, photograph or propaganda poster) to help further reflect on the trip as well as choose a quote they found most significant.

Post-trip processing:
The next day back in class to process the trip, the following quote was displayed to begin class discussion.

“The question is whether we will ever be able to learn from history.”
Dr. Alexander Mitscherlich, German physician who
Served as an official observer at the Nuremberg Doctors Trial (1946-47)

Students shared their selected quote and what option they expanded upon for reflection. We placed the exhibit in context to its overall importance to our upcoming study of the Holocaust.

Students did a thorough job given a limited time frame. I was thoroughly impressed with their interest during the tour of the exhibit, thoughtful questions for our docents and then the obvious insights gained as we processed the trip.

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