LIMA — Eighth-grade students at Liberty Arts Magnet School got a glimpse into the lives of Jewish men, women and children under German oppression during World War II’s Holocaust by taking on the role of survivors and victims for a day-long interactive learning experience Wednesday.
Students were assigned identities and biographies of Jewish individuals from different European countries. They were given diaries, identification paperwork and a Star of David, items they were required to carry at all times throughout the day. If a teacher caught them without their star visible or in violation of the rules the child would receive a mark in their papers, said Brianna Lugibihl, the teacher who developed the exercise. The more marks a student received the less likely their character survived the Holocaust when the marks were tallied after the experience ended Thursday.
“We’ve done a lot of reading about the Holocaust, but they’ve struggled to connect with the subject matter,” Lugibihl said.
Lugibihl and her fellow teachers felt this exercise would help the students connect with a subject like the Holocaust in a personal way. Not every student had to begin the day marked with a Star of David, she said. Some students were given roles of Jewish people who passed as none Jewish during the Holocaust and WWII. Those students sat apart from those with stars in class and during lunch, she said.
“I could visualize how they’d been treated,” said Miranda Gordon, an eighth-grade student who was given the identity of Johanna Hirsch during the day. “All the Jews had to sit on one side of the classroom all day and the Germans sat on the other side.”
Gordon was able to survive until noon without receiving any marks in her paperwork. She made sure the Star of David was always easily visible and always had her paperwork in her pocket, she said.
“I think it’s a phenomenal idea,” said Liberty Arts Magnet Principal Angie Heffner. “It put the students in character. It makes them see what it was like to live as a Jew or German during that time.”
Heffner said when Lugibihl presented the idea to the staff, all of the teachers were on board. At Liberty, students and teachers frequently use art to enhance education, she said. This lesson combined the students’ social studies education, their reading of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and drama into a tangible learning experience, she said.
“Students who don’t connect with classwork could learn better through this project,” Heffner said. “The level of engagement is more intense.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.