Inspire a Better Future
Recently the USC Shoah Foundation announced its 2016 IWitness Video Challenge open to secondary school students in the United States and Canada who attend public, private or home schools. This year, partnerships with Ford Motor Company, which will provide more than $10,000 in prizing to be awarded to teachers and schools who submit winning video essays, and Discovery Education, which will administer the challenge and help maximize reach and impact through its deep partnerships with school systems, administrators and educators worldwide, will help ensure that students across both countries benefit from the IWitness program.
Be the Beginning of a Movement
Movements most always begin with a desire for change. As students view the testimonies in IWitness, they will be inspired to act, to take a stand, to be the catalyst for positive change in their community. Educators, who believe that the IWitness testimonies are only the focus of the social studies classroom, will find that all curricular areas can be enhanced by viewing testimony which encompasses situations where ordinary people took extraordinary action. In my rural school district, I teach with a group of dedicated educators who have used the testimonies in secondary classrooms to highlight social changes. An alternative education instructor incorporates the testimonies as an authentic source for student projects that focus on teaching tolerance. I have spoken with her class on several occasions and have been moved by the depth of the students’ understanding of the need for social change in our community. They comprehend the resistance that often accompanies such change and have experienced that resistance themselves. Likewise, the biology instructor in my district uses the testimonies to help students understand the need for scientists to work within ethical parameters. Through the viewing of testimonies from Holocaust survivors who were subjected to Josef Mengele’s experimentation, students are able to examine what occurs when unethical practices are allowed to continue and how Mengele’s use of deception in his experimentation and in his reporting to superiors can highlight unethical medical practices that may exist in our world. Other educators from the business instructor to the English instructor use the testimonies as primary source materials that enhance each student’s view of the world. Students from all curricular areas have the opportunity to interact with the individual, personal testimonies that make up the collective history of the Holocaust and gain a better understanding of their individual responsibilities as global citizens.
Each time any of us observe an unjust situation, we make a choice to either participate in the injustice, ignore the situation, or rectify it. As educators we want our students to make the right choices. Many of them are. What have your students done to bring about change that has had a positive impact on their community and our world? Which one of your students is ready to step up to right a wrong, to make the voices of the disenfranchised and improvised heard, to provide hope where there is none? All it takes is that one voice. Your students can provide that voice!
Posted on the behalf of Karen Wells
Looking for resources about the Holocaust to use in your class? Check out the lessons, videos and strategies found within Discovery Education Streaming.
Karen Wells is a National Board Certified library media specialist and journalism/English teacher from the Midland Public School District in Arkansas. As a Discovery Educator Network(DEN) STAR and member of the Discovery Education Leadership Council, she has attended Discovery regional and national events and DEN Summer Institutes. In 2015 she was selected to participate in the Auschwitz: The Past is Present initiative with twenty-five educators from around the globe. Last May she represented these educators in the Auschwitz: Past is Present Virtual Experience “which enabled students to explore the rich history of Jewish life in Poland before the Holocaust, to visit authentic memorial sites, and to discuss the consequences of hatred and intolerance.” Most recently she was named a Discovery Education Program Champion whose focus is to inform educators worldwide about Discovery Education and the USC Shoah Foundation’s Auschwitz: The Past is Present initiative that provides resources to support the observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. As a library media specialist, she has received the Media Specialist of the Year award, the Herb Lawrence Leadership Service award, and the Outstanding Media Program of the Year award.