Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Teaching about resistance - the partisans

Following a presentation by Mitch Braff, the Executive Director of the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation, during the summer course offered by MCHE, I decided to explore the JPEF website. What I found was a user-friendly wealth of information about Jewish partisans (a little-known/taught area of the Holocaust from my experience)--primary sources including first-person testimonies, videos, photographs, and letters; interactive maps, lesson plans and accompanying materials for easy download, and a fascinating set of courses provided though E-Learning.

From the homepage, select Teach, then E-Learning. After creating your account (which is free), you are ready to select a course. I started with “How to Use the JPEF E-Learning Platform.” This course provides comprehensive background on the partisans and resistance basics. Upon completion of this course, a teacher is prepared to teach a 45-60 minute class on Jewish resistance. The presentation is engaging, using interactive maps and photos to cover forms of resistance (including spiritual, artistic, sabotage, and humor). Many interesting anecdotes enhance the material; and the film, Introduction to the Jewish Partisans, provides a fascinating overview narrated by Ed Asner, whose cousin was a partisan (an interesting local connection there).

Each lesson provided is designed to be used in a single class period. The films range in length from 3-21 minutes. Everything I viewed is designed to be very teacher-friendly. There is a virtual underground bunker for students to explore. The themes covered in the lessons include heroism, ethics, leadership, power, resistance, and one’s personal responsibilities.

One of the student activities that I found most creative is entitled “Someone Like Me.” A student is paired with a partisan with similar characteristics—the student can then read a biography of that partisan, do additional research on the site, and share the information with the rest of the class.

The purpose of the activities is not only to help students learn about Jewish resistance and the partisans but to also help students apply the life lessons from this history. I highly recommend the site—but preview the films and activities carefully as some are more suited for high school students. The E-Learning classes (I just completed the one on Women Partisans as well) make use of unique and engaging primary sources—almost makes me wish I were still teaching (almost)—I know students would benefit from these creative activities.

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