Holocaust Teaching: a cross-curricular approach| Margaret Stanley

 

Harry Bibring arrived in the UK under the Kindertransport scheme, with Margaret  

 

"Before the Survivor talk, 6 million was just a number."  Year 9 student.

Although The Holocaust is a key part of the Key Stage 3 Curriculum I was mindful of teaching it in such a manner as to maintain modern day relevance for young students to identify with.  My main aim as a History Teacher has always been to encourage the students to learn about their subject area whilst remembering the real people involved.  To improve this I invited a Holocaust Survivor to talk with Year 9.Inviting in a survivor had a far greater impact on the students and myself than I could ever have imagined.

Upon talking to the students in their follow up lessons I realized that there was so much more they wanted to know about the people involved. In particular, the role of  those brave enough to stand against oppression.  I realized that this was how to enable the students to recognize the themes within Holocaust Teaching which relate to us all.

Initially I intended that the History and Citizenship Departments would work together to examine the questions the Holocaust raises about working together to create a better society for all.

 I then took this to other departments to consider how they too could cooperate on this project.  I was able to convince staff from all subject areas that teaching across the curriculum would give the students a wonderful learning experience of this vital subject.

 Ultimately I devised a scheme of work for Year 9 which taught the Holocaust in an entirely cross curricular scheme of work.

To identify just a few areas:

In Geography the students learn about the historical occurrences of forced migration and acts of genocide. Learning about these more recent events gave students a new insight in to the real lessons we must learn from the Holocaust.  Previously I was aware that studying Nazi occupied Europe left students considering the subsequent policies to be unique to that era and race. By looking at other atrocities they began to understand the wider issues of oppression and intolerance.

In Music, the importance of the Arts as a form of protest was also studied. Music ranging from traditional slave anthems to anti war songs were examined culminating in  students writing and performing their own pieces. In ICT this was taken further, using their GCSE course work.  The students chose to present issues of intolerance and prejudice such as racism and bullying and considered ways to combat them.

In Design and Technology they looked at the methods used in the ghettoes to maintain a sense of identity. Using original block press images the students built their own printing presses to produce their own messages of defiance and brotherhood.

Students, in English lessons studied the graphic novel Maus and related this with a study of recent events of hate crimes, and the issues which drive prejudice and oppression.

The entire two weeks preceding Holocaust Memorial Day were devoted to studying the Holocaust in a cross curricular scheme. Students examined every aspect of events, whilst always maintaining the focus of the people who were affected.

Both staff and students learned new skills which they deployed in all disciplines. Students felt empowered to affect change, armed with a greater understanding of historical events. They wrote passionate letters to national leaders and raised money for agencies helping those still affected.

I attended a talk where teachers voiced their concerns about the continued prominence of Holocaust teaching given a changing curriculum. A survivor present, was disturbed by this. She quite correctly stated, "If we do not teach the lessons of the Holocaust correctly, then my family died for nothing." This echoes with me as I plan my lessons and is my way of remembering and honouring their memory.