HomeWashington Twp. NewsBoard of Education recognizes fifth-grade Holocaust Museum for Children

Board of Education recognizes fifth-grade Holocaust Museum for Children

Hurffville students presented their lesson on determination, integrity, empathy and compassion through the interactive activity

Fifth-grade students from Hurffville Elementary School shared their lesson on determination, integrity, empathy and compassion through an interactive, creative Holocaust Museum for Children at last week’s Board of Education meeting.

According to Hurffville fifth-grade teacher Jackie Tiger-Williams, alongside co-teacher Matt Murray, the idea for the museum formed when research on the historic events was deemed too mature for the 10- and 11-year-old students.

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“One of the greatest challenges in this unit is not overly sanitizing the topic, yet keeping it appropriate for 10- and 11-year-olds,” Tiger-Williams said. “It’s this delicate balance we as educators, and parents as well, are always double checking ourselves to be sure we are being mindful of that line.”

The activity featured interactive elements simulating conditions Jewish people endured during that time, such as “Life in Hiding,” which required students to fit within a small space under the teacher’s desk to learn about the similar small quarters Jews hid in for months, and even years. The museum aimed to answer lingering questions following the class’ completion of the novel “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, which chronicles the life of a 10-year-old Danish girl who “helps her family smuggle her Jewish friends to safety in Sweden.”

“When we finished reading the book, we still had so many unanswered questions about the Holocaust: Who freed the Jews; what happened to those who lost their lives; and how did the world move forward after something so awful?” Mya Knight, a Hurffville fifth-grader, said at the Nov. 28 meeting.

Through first-person video accounts from Holocaust survivors, photographs and informational texts within five exhibits — “Life in Hiding,” “Crisis Management,” “Building a New Life,” “Trying to Move Forward” and “Learning from History” — students were able to learn of the historic genocide and the impact it had on the world in an age-appropriate setting and context.

“Being tasked with teaching students about the Holocaust is a really big responsibility, but in a way it’s also this really great honor that you’re trusted with such a serious subject to teach to children,” Tiger-Williams said. “As teachers, we see firsthand our kids are so naturally empathetic, so one of our responsibilities as adults is to nurture that sense of empathy — to keep it developing, to keep it growing. Our Holocaust unit is just one of the ways we do this at Hurffville.”

Presenting fifth-graders — Knight, Luca Esgro, Justin Giese and Emma Wise — were recognized by the Board of Education for their interest and empathy in the history of the Holocaust.

“This creative supplemental activity allowed you to hear firsthand accounts from Holocaust survivors, and to learn more about the health, emotional and social issues that they faced upon their liberation,” said Tiffany Orihel, board member and Hurffville Elementary School liaison. “We applaud your interest in the history of the Holocaust and your empathy for the atrocities the Jewish people endured during this period.”

In other news:

• Orchard Valley Middle School teacher and resident Ron Lucarini thanked the township and school communities for their teamwork and efforts in collecting more than 380 Thanksgiving turkeys to be donated to local families in need on Wednesday, Nov. 22. According to a release, the “Gobble Up Hunger” event was coordinated by members of the district middle school Future Acts clubs, Washington Township High School Changing Our World Project, Washington Township Education Association, Washington Township Rotary, Washington Township Police Department, Parks and Recreation, township administration and Mother’s Cupboard.

“It was absolutely a community effort,” Lucarini said.

• Board of Education President Ginny Murphy provided an update to the Whitman Elementary School drop-off concerns many residents had voiced at previous meetings in regard to teacher supervision and visibility of students being let in and out of the building, before and after the school day.

“It’s in the hands of the Washington Township engineer, who happens to be the school engineer as well. They are looking at site plans to determine what the best course might be to alleviate some of those problems,” Murphy said. “We are working on it, and we’ll report back when we get any further recommendations.”

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