BY DEBORAH MOON
The pandemic has made many aspects of education more difficult this past year. But it gave Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education staff precious time to develop online resources to support Holocaust and genocide education, which Senate Bill 664 mandated to begin with the 2020-21 school year.
Though the mandated education was set to launch last fall, “There is not the expectation to fulfill all learning standards during remote teaching,” says OJMCHE Director of Education Amanda Coven. “There is a realization that emotional support and well-being is a priority and with the combination of reduced class time and lessons just taking longer to do virtually, it’s impossible to meet all learning standards.”
That delay in implementation combined with the museum being closed during the pandemic has given OJMCHE time to develop a robust Teach & Learn section on the museum’s website (ojmche.org). The website includes resources and curriculum.
“I’d definitely say there is a silver lining to all of this,” says Amanda. “If we had been open and facilitating tours, the education department would not have had the time to create the resources we just released and will continue to. The pandemic has provided us the opportunity to develop some really great materials and experiences accessible to any educator, but especially those who never would have had the opportunity to visit the museum or memorial with their students.”
The site features a virtual tour of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Washington Park, so teachers can now visit the memorial with their students from anywhere. The virtual tour can be engaged with as a class or explored independently. A free teacher’s guide includes anticipatory questions, a graphic organizer for students, a classroom discussion guide, and extension resources and lessons.
In addition, the museum’s core permanent exhibit, “Discrimination and Resistance, An Oregon Primer,” is now available as a digital experience. Designed to mirror the physical exhibition, the digital experience provides students the opportunity to interact with the exhibition’s content in an engaging format. The museum is also creating a digital experience of “The Holocaust, An Oregon Perspective,” which should be available later this year.
In the past week, four schools have requested the Discrimination and Resistance Digital Experience, virtual tours of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, or virtual classroom visits in which Amanda facilitates a lesson with students.
Amanda says the pandemic’s closure of the museum’s indoor physical space “has given us the ability to expand our outreach in meaningful ways. I’m always delightfully surprised when I see educators registering for our professional developments that work outside of the Portland Metro area. Fortunately, this seems to be happening more and more!”
“We’ve done really well with
relevant professional development, so we’re going to continue to offer those on a more frequent and continuous basis,” says Amanda. “Many of the professional developments in February-May are not posted yet.”
One upcoming professional development workshop, Law and (Dis)Order: Legalizing Discrimination and Civic Responsibility, will give teachers lessons they can share with students who want to enter the 2021 Jakob and Sala Kryszek Art and Writing Competition.
On Jan. 27, educators can learn about and examine 40 of the more than 400 anti-Jewish decrees and regulations during the Holocaust and discuss how the legal system can perpetuate or prevent discrimination, persecution and genocide.
This year’s prompt for the Writing and Art Contest asks students to reflect on Holocaust history and create a piece of writing or work of visual art that considers the role that laws played in the discrimination against and persecution and genocide of Jewish people, and the importance of civic responsibility and engagement. The competition is open to middle and high school students. The submission deadline is March 19.
“We adapted the contest last year due to COVID-19 and have done the same this year,” says Amanda. “We’re requesting entries be submitted digitally, but in the event that technology is not available, students can mail their work to the museum.”
For details, visit ojmche.org/teach-learn/sala-kryszek-art-writing-competition/.
OJMCHE will also host its first summer educator workshop and a series on human rights and justice in the classroom.
What OJMCHE means to educators:
Nathalia Parra, Portland Adventist Academy: OJMCHE means hope to me. Hope that our students will begin to be taught in a more inclusive and honest way, that our bias and comfortable views on the world can begin to shift in ourselves to then empower our students correctly.
John Cornet, Phoenix High School: We today see preconditions that could lead to genocidal thinking emerging around the world … the museum shines a spotlight on that spread of intolerance, allowing people to see where dangers may lurk rather than remaining blind to or subconsciously conforming to them.
Kassie Evans Halpin, Edison High School: The center is able to address all aspects of prejudice, discrimination and fear due to age, disability, ethnicity, origin, political belief, race, religion, sex or gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, abilities, neurodiversity and other individual factors. This education is vital to acceptance of diversity.