Teaching about The Holocaust

Schererville educator says museum make history personal
2009-10-19T00:00:00Z Teaching about The HolocaustJennifer Pallay - Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 19, 2009 12:00 am  • 

One Northwest Indiana teacher has found the resources she needs to teach her students about The Holocaust, a history lesson she is passionate about.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie is dedicated to preserving the memory of those lost in The Holocaust and teaching new generations about the need to fight hatred, indifference and genocide.

Joyce Groen, of Munster, was one of more than 320 teachers who attended an educator open house at the center earlier this month. Groen teaches seventh and eighth grade at Highland Christian School and has a master's degree in holocaust studies.

"I was very impressed with the museum," she said. "They really want to get the word out."

It is her goal to get people to care about The Holocaust and other periods of genocide.

"I was amazed at the amount of things they had in their collection," she said. "There's things I'll have to prepare my students for." She said it is important for teachers to know the museum and education center is not the place for just a regular field trip.

"You can't just go there and not know the story," she warned.

The museum features displays from the beginning of anti-Semitism through to liberation, Groen said. Exhibits also explain why and how Holocaust survivors ended up in Skokie.

Teachers from East Chicago, LaPorte, Highland and Chicago public schools also attended the open house, which highlighted the facility's educational resources and programming, including field trips, teacher workshops, speakers, summer institutes, student leadership days, a teaching trunk program and more.

The education center offers a lot of help, Groen said, through conferences, primary sources and an entire curriculum on based on grade levels. She plans to take her students there Dec. 1 and said the staff is helping prepare the students for their visit.

Kelley Szany, associate director of education, has been with the museum for eight years. The Schererville resident said people often wonder how a non-Jewish educator got involved with the museum.

"I believe there must not only be an understanding of the history of The Holocaust, but also the human learning about The Holocaust," she said. "The Holocaust is a human issue and should be studied by all people."

Szany said the teachers' response to the open house was overwhelming.

One teacher told her he had taken his students to The Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., for 15 years, but now plans to bring them to Skokie. He told her that the personal stories, artifacts and photographs will touch his students and that the museum's universal approach will relate to them.

"We recognize that the one way we honor the memory that we are preserving is by trying to have an effect on the world that we live in today," Szany said. "We cannot teach about The Holocaust and genocide from a distance and must challenge younger generations to think about what it all means for them personally."

She said issues of human rights appear in the news daily and by studying The Holocaust and genocide, young people can learn that these events are not aberrations of history, but have roots in discriminatory behaviors that start with day-to-day interactions.

"In the end, it our hope that each instructor who teaches his or her students about genocide or human rights is, ultimately, paving the way for a larger and more powerful step in the right direction toward a more concentrated, worldwide effort to care about humanity," Szany said.

If you go

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, Ill.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday nights; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cost: $8, with discounts available for senior citizens, students and children 5 to 11

Visit www.ilholocaustmuseum.org.

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