Tour for Humanity was back in Barrie at a Catholic elementary school today, another new stop. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) Educator Elena taught 4 workshops throughout the day to students between Grades 3 and 6 - all Simon's Story/Heroes Among Us. Elena received rave reviews from all participating teachers and the students themselves were very excited to finally see what was inside the bus. The students were engaged and very curious.
One of the highlights of the day was when Elena asks students to think about a time that they were a "hero" to someone else. One student answered that his aunt was sick and needed surgery so he babysat his younger cousin a lot to help her. Another student mentioned that she had spent a Saturday cleaning up litter in one of Barrie's parks.
As is often the case with Simon's Story, Elena had a lot of students trying to understand how the Nazis could be so evil and hurt so many innocent people. When Elena told the students in the first workshop that 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered during the Holocaust they were horrified and not satisfied when she explained why Nazis thought violence was acceptable. When Elena told the students about people with special needs being killed as well, one student immediately said, "my brother uses a wheelchair, would he have been killed?" Elena told her that not every person with a physical challenge was killed but that it was a dangerous time for anyone who was seen as different, which is why we need to all help and protect people that may not be able to stand up for themselves.
The Tom & Anna Koffler Tolerance Training Centre classroom in FSWC's North York office also had a fantastic Grade 10 English class in today from a high school in Brampton to participate in our Roots of Hatred and Intolerance workshop. Similar to the group on Wednesday, the students were fascinated by the artifacts and documents in the glass cases in the office. A couple of the girls were especially keen on the photographs taken by a Canadian soldier at Bergen Belsen after it had been liberated. It is always moving to see students who have a connection to these primary source documents. A number of students were also very impressed with Wiesenthal’s desk and the binders of documents listing the Nazi criminals who were caught.
In the classroom, students were attentive and enjoyed the interactive aspects of the workshop, especially that of the boxcar demonstration and the polling. FSWC Educators Emily and Daniella were able to make strong connections to their class study of Elie Wiesel’s Night and their future study of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Emily and Daniella ended the workshop with a discussion on how social media can spread hate and the responsibilities we have as users to report hate crimes we see online.