This project began YEA’s inaugural Community Event Collaboration. The yearlong multifaceted program combined ballet, literary arts, filmmaking, sculpture, printmaking, classroom arts residencies, classroom visits, music and bookmaking for an all-encompassing study of the Holocaust curriculum through arts integration. In October, The Kennedy Center professional development workshop, Walking In Another’s Shoes, was held for 38 teachers from 11 schools impacting 2,140 students. Ringling College student-artists and 10 classroom teachers from Booker and Brookside Middle Schools and Phoenix Academy worked together in the classroom once a week for yearlong residencies connecting the Holocaust to social studies, history, and literary arts.
Students produced an illustrated book of poetry, Sifting Through The Dust, inspired by Holocaust books and the story of the Lost Boys of The Sudan. 8th graders hand bound books of their original poems. After reading Anne Frank, middle school social studies students wrote character studies to explore another’s point of view in the story and researched the impact of the changing geopolitical climate in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Music students created musical instruments from objects that could be found in the camps and the orchestra teacher helped them compose and play music with their instruments.
A Ringling student-artist from Poland helped students learn about the propaganda posters of World War ll and create linoleum block print posters on acceptance.
Hand-painted tiles for Boxed In By Hate, a 3 foot cube covered with the tiles and well-known diversity quotes were made by 6, 7 and 8th graders from Brookside Middle. Students researched the Holocaust and gave presentations for other classes, their parents and the community on questions such as: Why invade Poland? Who were the Righteous Nations? Phoenix Academy social studies and history classes studied prejudice in this current day through the use of language, common slang, movies and music lyrics.
The Booker Middle VPA dance students choreographed their own Anne Frank ballet and performed it at their Spring Recital. Sixth graders worked with dancers from the Sarasota Ballet to explore emotions expressed through movement. Videography was used to show the nonverbal messages students portray. Project dancers were interviewed by Booker’s TV Department and broadcast on school airways.
YEA Arts’ Hidden Children of the Holocaust Community Event performance partnered with Sarasota Ballet for their first school time performances. YEA Arts brought 1225 students from 7 schools to the ballet Anne Frank at the FSU Center. For many of these students, this was their first live ballet; many were clearly moved by the compelling story. An African-American middle school boy turned to his principal and whispered “That could have happened to me!”
As a closure to this comprehensive study, YEA Arts brought Holocaust survivors into classrooms to make real time connections to the past through eyes that experienced that time. The kids at Booker Middle were fascinated by meeting Susan Konicov, someone who was a Hidden Child herself in Holland during the Nazi occupation and actually knew Anne Frank’s friend Hanna. Paul Molnar, a survivor, talked about being in several concentration camps as a child about the same age as the students in the room. He left the students with “…If someone says the Holocaust didn’t happen, you can say I know it did because on this day I talked to someone who was there.” What a powerful ending. Betty Silberman, speaking to honor her parents, talked about how they can address prejudice when they experience it themselves or witness it at the expense of others in jokes, language or actions. As a hidden child in plain sight, Hilde Mandel escaped from a Polish ghetto and made her way to Berlin where she worked under the assumed name of a deceased Polish girl until the end of the war. Hilde left the students with “In life there must be a purpose bigger than yourself.”
In response to hearing the survivors’ stories, a 6th grader said, “Meeting them made the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust come alive for me. They were very brave.”
What memorable learning these students had! The speakers were part of the Jewish Federation’s Speakers Bureau and Generations After program. This extensive and intensive project immersing 1,500 students in yearlong studies was generously sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.