Students learn more than the three Rs
For the students in Mrs. Linda Fredin’s ninth grade Language Arts class at Cavelero Mid-High School in Lake Stevens, reading books and finding symbolism in them was a typical assignment.
Students weren’t prepared for the emotional experience they got from completing the assignment given to them after reading Night by ElieWiesel, who was a Holocaust survivor.
Fredin had visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. where she bought a book about the author of the Curious George books, Hans Augusto Rey, who too was a survivor of the Holocaust.
After her experience at the museum and her feelings reading about Rey, she wanted to have her students create something more meaningful than their typical assignment.
“I thought it would be neat to have the kids chronicle someone’s life and memory,” Fredin said.
Students were asked to create a children’s book using symbolism to tell the story of an actual Holocaust survivor they had researched on the internet and then write a letter to the survivor or their family along with a copy of the book they created.
The survivor they chose wasn’t randomly picked, they had to find someone they could relate to, someone the same age, family size or had other commonalities.
“I felt the book was really emotionally disturbing even be
fore we did the project,” Megan Larsen, a student from the class said.
“I felt that it was just another book, but after we did the project it felt a lot more real,: Megan Pryor said.
As the students researched their projects and spent time getting to know their subjects, they became emotionally connected to these people. Many of them realized the struggles that these victims went through and how different their lives are compared to their survivor.
“He went through some tough times,” Jacob Novak said. “I wouldn’t want to go through what he did. He’s pretty courageous.”
Jacob and his project partner Alain Orbino wrote a story entitled Abe and the Talking Pumpkin. The pumpkin patch in their story represented Abe’s hometown and a grocery store where he was taken symbolized the Nazi concentration camps. They also had Super Squash (SS), which represented they Nazis.
Pryor and her partner Alyssa Grisham wrote a story called “Ant Island”. In their story, Eva, the main character lives with her mom and they get taken by grasshoppers (Nazis) to Ant Island (a concentration camp).
“It was really inspiring to see what she went through and how she handled it,” Grisham said.
Larsen’s project was entitled, Pauline and the Big Bad Bears. In her story Pauline is a canary whose father camouflages his family with black feathers so they look like Americans and won’t be taken to a concentration camp.
“You can kind of tell what kind of person they were by how they handled their situation,” Larsen said. “Irene (her survivor) was brave and strong.”
All of the students involved in this project learned then they ever expected to.
“At the beginning it was about getting a good grade but then you felt a connection to this person and what they went through,” Pryor said.
“It is one of the best assignments ever,” Fredin said. “I’m just really proud of the kids, I’m really proud of their empathy."