While the study of the Holocaust is part of the middle school eighth-grade curriculum, the entire Weber Middle School sixth grade visited the Nassau County Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove as an anti-bullying exercise. Arriving on four different days in groups of about 100 students, they later filled out evaluation forms that asked: What was the most important thing you learned about yourself today? Students wrote: "I learned that I have always been a bystander and I should stick up for others." -"I do bully (others) and I should stop."- " I can put an idea into action and I shouldn't just watch bullying because I am not affected." - "If I try, I can stand up to a bully." -"We need to be more tolerant of others so we can live in a better community." There were also answers to this question such as "I am really interested in the Holocaust."
One unusual student response was, "I learned I could sit longer than I thought I could because the information was really interesting." After the students arrived at the center by school bus they saw a 15-minute video called Daniel's Story, which gave a brief history of the Holocaust from a German Jewish child's point of view. Then a Holocaust survivor spoke for close to an hour and answered questions. Gloria Glantz, from Port Washington, was one of the survivors who gave testimony.
Next students moved into six smaller groups to have discussions with a facilitator. The Weber students described their own experiences with being a bully, a victim of intolerance, a bystander or a hero, someone who stopped the bullying they saw. They finished the small groups doing an improvisation using one of the experiences told by a student with explicit words that can be said by victims, heroes and bystanders to stop bullies.
Before a pizza lunch, students viewed and discussed two sections of a documentary video called Not in Our Town, which demonstrated how the people of Billings, Montana, banded together as a community to stop racism and intolerance. After pizza the students returned to their small groups to discuss how to improve tolerance at school or in their communities. Then they tried to devise a plan to implement at school. Teachers, assistant principals and guidance counselors who accompanied the students especially liked the planning to promote tolerance in the school. Students shared these ideas with the large group before seeing a video made by high school students called, Seeds of Change.
The answers varied on the student survey question, "What part of the program was most meaningful to you and why?" Many wrote that hearing the survivor story was most meaningful. One student wrote, "Everyone should learn about what the Jews went through and how racism can be extremely horrible." Some students appreciated the fact that they were hearing history firsthand, "because she really experienced the Holocaust."
Some students liked the small group because, "We shared ideas on how to help the students become more tolerant and it made me understand tolerance more," and "We learned how they felt when they got bullied." Others appreciated the different videos.
The staff at the Nassau County Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center were impressed by the level of participation and overall enthusiasm of the students. Anyone interested in the tolerance training or other museum programs can find contact information on the website, Holocaust-Nassau.org.