It is important to create a series of lesson plans that is easily accessible to all classrooms. Reflecting on all the details that were carefully designed into the memorial was really powerful. The tour itself was an experience. How can we make this personal to our students? Here are a few suggestions…
How do we introduce the memorial to the students?
- Show interviews to the students
- Have students read the writings on the memorial wall
- Give a brief introduction on the significance of memorials, what they mean, and what they stand for
How do we give our students the most impactful experience while at the memorial?
- Create a reflective guided tour
- Have students pick a quote they feel is most powerful and explain why
- Integrate group activities (not sure what yet)
- Have students write questions anonymously that they would like to ask the docents
- Discuss the impacts of memorials and their significance in today’s society
- How do the events of the past relate to what we are seeing today?
Honestly, I don’t really have much experience with designing curriculum or lessons, so I feel a bit out of my depth at this stage. I’m not really sure what’s possible or desirable. On the other hand, it’s also exciting to be part of such a project, and to be getting some of this experience. I look forward to seeing what we can do.
At the museum, I really appreciated the information on Portland’s Jewish community, and the effort to tie the Holocaust to the personal stories and experience of people in that community, and to the broader context of Oregon’s history and various experiences of dehumanization and discrimination within it. This is, after all, specifically Portland’s Holocaust memorial; it seems it should reflect Portland and the people here. I especially thought it was helpful to see the video about the construction of the memorial and the interviews with the people involved with that, what they were thinking and feeling, etc. I also appreciated the map of the camps—I think it would really help contextualize what to students might just be obscure-sounding names like “Treblinka” or “Chelmno.” I found myself wishing more information like this had been available at the memorial site; I think that would be a good place to start.
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Concerning our recent visit to the Oregon Jewish Museum and the affiliated Holocaust Memorial:
As we perused the collection of black and white photographs, meandered down the grey cobblestone path to the memorial wall, and succumbed to the heart-aching memories of Holocaust survivors displayed with clear aluminum lettering, I could not escape the darkness. Neither the bright sun overhead nor the vibrant green trees in the background could lighten the experience. The Holocaust was, and still is, an illustration of the human capacity for depravity. How do we teach 12 to 18 year old students about this significant historical event, which resulted in the deaths of millions? How do we shine a light on this darkness? Where do we shine it?
Some ideas for where and how to shine the light:
- Create a pdf lesson plan that teachers can use to direct their students while visiting the memorial. Include a brief introduction lecture followed by engaging activities. I like the idea of using the jigsaw method to assign students different tasks (i.e. collecting information on a certain quote, or finding the various artifacts placed on the memorial grounds). Later, the students can share their findings with the rest of the class.
- Depending on grade level, focus broadly on the Holocaust (i.e. an overview of event) or, for more accelerated classes, drill down on specific locations (i.e. Chelmno, Treblinka, etc.).
- Create pdf lesson plan(s) for the day(s) leading up to visiting the memorial.
- Create some sort of virtual experience for students and teachers who cannot take a field trip but still want to explore the memorial.
Just some ideas!
We ended up having a discussion about the five w’s +how, and I recollected as much as I could the discussion and created a concept map. I know that we were considering maybe 1 lesson with different differentiations of tasks for different age groups, but I think exploring the idea of dehumanization would sidestep accidentally trying to “reinvent the wheel,” and explore this central theme.
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