Creating their own Holocaust Museum

Posted April 27, 2017 at 5:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

Studying history was much more than reading textbooks, taking tests and writing papers for Akron-Westfield eighth graders.

In their study of the Holocaust, the 36 students created their own Holocaust Museum and shared it with approximately 250 others, including fellow Grades 4-7 students and teachers, parents, and school board members.

The students created a Jewish home, a train car, cattle car and concentration camp based on the book, “Daniel’s Story,” which shares stories of children who experienced the Holocaust in Germany; the Lodz, Poland, ghetto; Auschwitz, Germany concentration camps; and their ultimate freedom at Buchenwald, Germany.

Each student had an individual project as well as participated in groups constructing the museum on the school stage.

Six eighth graders shared their experience and reflections with The Akron Hometowner.

The students created audio recordings enhancing the visual displays from the children’s laughter in a Jewish home before World War II to the sounds trains rolling down the tracks and finally the chaos at the concentration camps.

Each student was assigned certain jobs in the museum creation — to be carried out by themselves, explained Val Philips who assisted Eighth Grade Language Arts teacher Colleen Westergard who had the students create the museum.

The final display was a reflection area for those who toured this museum to leave written reflections for the students.

For individual projects, the students “could draw pictures, write poems, make videos,” said student Ali Welch. “We chose different themes: oppression, religion, human resilience.”

She created a video on oppression, showing what the Jews lost and how their lives changed during the Holocaust.

Natalie Toben created a picture of human resilience with the them of “Always Choose Love.”

Justin Ford chose to draw a picture on religion: two heads surrounded by darkness and despair. One representing Daniel who lost his faith and the other, his father who found his faith and hope during the Holocaust.

A drawing by Will Van Buskirk showed people getting off the train, being ripped away from families and thrown into gas chambers.

A video about what people went through, how hard it was for them, and why we study history and that we can’t let history repeat was the creation of Rivers Moffatt while Cameron Moore’s video on oppression described how their life was during the Holocaust and the thing that were taken away from them.

“I had fun doing it,” said Rivers. “Daniel’s Story helped me learn — the story did really good on how happy they were to how bad it was.”

“It’s good to teach others so it doesn’t happen again,” said Ali.

“Daniel’s Story makes it more like a personal level,” said Natalie. “Instead of just learning about the Holocaust, we actually read about what someone our age went through.”

“It really put it in perspective,” said Justin.

“I learned you can’t get everything you want when you want it,” said Cameron. “It helped me realize what it was actually like for them and what we have today is something completely different.”

“You shouldn’t kill people just because they are in your way,” said Will.

“Or different in any way,” added Justin.

The students also shared their own lifestyles with students in war zone of Palestine and Israel by emails.

“We learned old people (there) think they should stay separate but the kids think they should combine (into one nation),” said Ali.

“I think there is a lot of hatred still,” said Natalie. “We have it in the United States over certain religions and certain people.”

“There’s definitely wars going on whether it’s social or physical,” said Justin.

“The Holocaust can most likely, probably, happen again,” said Rivers.

“If someone gets enough power,” said Natalie.

“North Korea,” said Will.

“A lot of rumors go on over social media that helps spread stuff,” said Rivers.

Overall, the students felt they learned much more with this “project-based” learning experience.

“It’s more fun,” said Rivers.

“You get a better perspective,” said Ali. “It’s like you’re actually there.”

“You learn skills,” said Cameron. Skills such as making audio recordings and videos and creating scenes.

“We learned a lot,” said Natalie.

“I’d definitely do it again if we had the chance,” said Cameron.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Justin.

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