Education Newsletter - June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020


Wiesenthal Education Weekly

For Educators, Parents & Students

June 25 , 2020

School's Out! ...Now What?

In any other year, the last day of school is cause for celebration. Classrooms are empty; teachers congratulate each other on another great year; students joyously bound out of the building into the great unknown of “summer vacation”.

We have already seen that 2020 will be a year unlike any other. Classrooms are indeed empty, devoid of students for the past 3 months; teachers are logging off Google Classroom for the last time from their respective homes, and students are facing another 2 months of being at home. We are here to support you. Throughout the summer months, this newsletter will feature resources and suggestions to keep kids engaged; spotlights and interviews with change-making Canadians and educational articles.

The Education Team here at FSWC would like to take this opportunity to thank the teachers, principals, and administrators from across Canada for their commitment and dedication to our educational programs. Whether it was in the classroom, on board Tour for Humanity or via Zoom workshops, we thank each and every one of you.

4 Questions With..

Lauren Weinberg | Hons. B.A., Wilfrid Laurier University, Co-Founder of KidzKits

Hi! I’m Lauren Weinberg! I have had a life-long passion for child development and hands-on creative learning. I have spent countless hours working in the childcare sector with varying age groups and with children of all abilities! Each new experience that I gain only further solidifies my love for the teaching profession. This upcoming fall, I will embark on obtaining my Masters degree in Child Studies and Education at OISE.

How has your passion for child work inspired you to create KidzKits?

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, students were forced to adapt to this new normal of learning from home. My co-founder, Nikki Ptasznik and I, recognized the need for engaging, stimulating and educational activities to be facilitated from the home. We launched KidzKits as a way for this to be obtainable for families in a minimal-mess and convenient way. Our kits are science-based and we introduce a new activity every two weeks! Each kit comes with all the materials you will need perfectly measured out, an instructional video featuring Nikki and myself demonstrating the experiment from ‘in the lab’, written instructions, and activity sheets that allow for the children to reflect on their work. We are proud to donate a portion of our proceeds to various charities, such as JFCS emergency relief fund, and SickKids hospital.

Do you think that your experiences during COVID-19 will influence your teaching pedagogy as you enter into teacher’s college?

My experience during the COVID-19 pandemic with starting KidzKits has further solidified for me the importance of hands-on learning! Despite the various limitations the COVID-19 pandemic has placed onto learning in a traditional sense, play based learning can be facilitated from anywhere, and with anything. While employing these strategies, children become confident, curious and creative learners! These principles will guide my teaching pedagogy throughout teachers college and within my future classroom.

What advice would you give to parents and guardians to help them keep their child(ren) entertained and engaged during these unprecedented times?

In the midst of all the craziness the pandemic has brought forth, I actually think it has forced us back into simpler times. We’ve been spending time catching up with friends, getting outside and being active, and most of all bonding with family. Quarantine has given families the unique experience of all being home for an extended period of time, together. Parents and guardians can use this time to teach their children valuable life skills. For instance, parents can turn folding laundry into a race to see who can fold the most socks, or a math activity that teaches patterning. Kids can assist with cooking and learn concepts such as measurements or nutrition. Kids can dedicate this time to caring of a pet and understanding responsibilities. Or the family can sit down all together and do a science experiment such as the ones provided by KidzKits. Ultimately, parents and guardians are inundated with pressure now more than ever to keep their children entertained and stimulated, but sometimes all it takes is just getting creative with household tasks, or activities for the entire family to do enjoy.

How do you think that the pandemic will guide the future of education and more specifically digital learning?

Along with all of the devastation the COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth, it has also presented tremendous growth for humanity in that we were forced to adapt every sector of our lives. In regard to the education system more specifically, the pandemic pushed the education system towards fully embracing technology. Since the onset of COVID-19 educators have worked tirelessly to educate their students remotely, while still maintaining the same quality of creative lessons that would have existed in a classroom setting. Digital learning is an avenue that in my belief offers a tremendous amount of positive opportunities. It allows for students from a young age to familiarize themselves with important softwares, get creative on this new medium, and most of all has allowed for learning to still be possible despite social distancing regulations. I am in awe of how educators around the country have adapted their classrooms and teaching style to the circumstances of today, and I am confident that this era of digital learning is going to pave the way to an entirely new teaching pedagogy for the future generations, one that I am excited to be apart of!

Vera Schiff: Doctor of Letters, honoris causa

Holocaust Survivor Vera Schiff was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC.

Vera is an educator and award-winning author who has devoted her life to spreading the message of tolerance, justice and human rights for all. We are honoured to have her be part of our Educational Workshops, travelling to schools across the Greater Toronto Area to teach students about the importance of standing up and speaking out. Vera is also part of FSWC's website, view her story here

On behalf of all of us at FSWC, we congratulate Vera on this incredible achievement!

Activity: The Importance of Perspective-Taking

It is important that when we are teaching and learning about history, we take different perspectives to understand that different social, cultural, intellectual, and emotional settings that shaped people’s lives and actions in the past. By only learning history through the lens of one person or a single group of people, we may be missing out on achieving a well-rounded understanding of the multifaceted nature of the society in which we exist in today.

In light of Indigenous History Month, we are encouraging educators and students to engage in a process of decolonizing education and engaging in a process of learning that considers the perspective of Indigenous peoples. In doing this, it is hoped that students will understand that Indigenous Knowledge and perspectives are just as important to consider as any other perspective when attempting to achieve a historical understanding of any event.

The following activity can be utilized by educators to engage students in perspective-taking when learning about residential schools in Canada. By emphasizing different perspectives and considering the voices of Indigenous people, testimony can be used to illuminate the suffering of survivors and give a voice to the people who did not survive. Testimonies places a face and voice to depict the horrors of human suffering. The activity will explore the importance and benefits of utilizing testimony as both an educational, reflective, and a commemorative tool.


The TRC features countless testimonies from residential school survivors. Please see, resources here or here. Teachers can select a few short and transcribed testimonies and distribute them among students (as this is an individual activity, more than one student can receive the same testimony). Students will be asked to reflect on the testimony and answering the following questions:

  1. What was the purpose of residential schools?
  2. Has learning about residential schools changed your idea of rural life/education is?
  3. Why is it important that we learn about residential schools today?
  4. How does learning about different perspectives help us understand the history of Canada?

Brief History of Two-Spirited People in Canada

2020 marks two full decades since the international community began recognizing June as Pride Month. In dozens of countries across the world, members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as their allies come together in parades, festivals, and rallies to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan. These demonstrations were a spontaneous response in New York against police violence and discrimination. In the years since the initial demonstrations and riots, the community has expanded and evolved to encompass nearly a dozen different identities and orientations.

In Canada in particular, an identity that has increasingly gained recognition is that of two-spirited peoples; this identity is the 2S in the full LGBTQQIP2SAA acronym accepted by many today. To many Indigenous Peoples, this term encompasses aspects of an individual’s cultural, spiritual, sexual, and gender identity. This term is used in some Indigenous communities to describe an individual who exhibits both masculine and feminine qualities, or “spirits.” In the pre-contact era, these individuals were regarded as transcending gender divisions within the community, often holding powerful positions such as healers, spiritual leaders, matchmakers, and counselors. Their connection to both masculinity and femininity meant that they were often able to move more freely between traditionally gendered roles in society, such as women performing as warriors or men caring for children, elderly, or meal preparation. It was understood that they might have a stronger connection to the Creator as they could experience life as both male and female.

Unfortunately, much of what we understand today about the lives of pre-contact Two-Spirited individuals has been lost due to the violence of the colonial experience and the imposition of Western moral and social structures around gender and sexuality. Christianity, Europe’s major religion at the time, had long been hostile to diverse and nonconformist sexual and gender identities. For colonialists, the societal prominence of two-spirited peoples in some Indigenous communities was used as further evidence of the supposed “strangeness” or “backwardness” of these societies. As the colonial structures spread and local traditions and beliefs were dismantled, the puritanical West sowed seeds of violence and discrimination in the communities they were eradicating with assimilative practices. This continued for the next 400 years.

In the 1990s, a group of Indigenous Peoples who identified as LGBTQ+ made a public and concerted push to galvanize around the identity of Two-Spirited; remind people of this history; and to raise awareness around the double marginalization of racial and gender discrimination experienced by 2S People. For some individuals even within the Indigenous community, this was the first time they had ever heard of a gender identity that was unique and particular to the Indigenous context and experience. Despite the attempt on the part of colonial and Canadian powers to erase this identity completely, stories of Two-Spirited individuals in pre-contact North America still continued to be secretly passed down over the generations, right up until today. Using these stories, Two-Spirited peoples and their allies reclaimed this part of their history and use it today as a signal of resilience, pride, and ongoing commitment to recover a past that was so brutally stolen.

For more information, we recommend the following resources:

Smithsonian Magazine

Huffington Post Canada

Canadian Aboriginal Aids Network

Provincial Health Services Authority

What Our Education Team is Reading & Watching This Week

FSWC's Education Team is constantly working to broaden their collective knowledge. Here's what we've recently been reading and watching:

Stay in Touch

Although FSWC's Education Team is practicing social distancing for the health and safety of themselves and those around them, you can reach us remotely at any time at

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