Muddling through the blogosphere

March 2, 2018
by blogwalker

Going to California League of Schools Conference?

If you will be attending CLS’s Conference this weekend, I warmly invite you to attend the session I’ll be co-presenting with Pam Bodnar (Marsh Jr. High, Chico USD): Teaching Social Justice Through the Lens of the Holocaust (Saturday, 10:30-11:30). In recognition that current times call for the voices of social justice, diversity, and action, we will be sharing ways to connect students to social justice practices by examining significant historical events and their relevance to recent local history. Through the lens of the Holocaust and powerful moments in history, participants will be provided with techniques to create safe spaces in the classroom to deal with sensitive topics. We will address the impact of bystanders and the power of “upstanders” to change the future.

Image of CLS slideshow

We will also be touring the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR).  If you haven’t visited TOR or haven’t visited it recently, we have added a Student Gallery page to showcase the work of students who are documenting – or planning to document – primary accounts of challenging topics, such as immigration, displacement, genocide – along with stories of those who have found the courage to stand-up and speak out on behalf of others.

During our CLS session, Pam and I will be sharing project ideas and strategies for promoting student voice and activism. If you cannot join us, I’ve posted one of Pam’s projects on the TOR Student Gallery to provide you with a window into her classroom: On Coming to America – An Interview with Altijanna Sinonovic.

Hope to see you Saturday!


July 8, 2012
by blogwalker

Travel to Rwanda on Student-led Virtual Tour

I’ve never been to Rwanda.  Ever since the 100-day genocide – and after watching Hotel Rwanda – I’ve followed news stories, always hoping to better understand how survivors find the resilience to return to “life as normal.”

At last, I am traveling from California to Rwanda….virtually. Thanks to the vision and determination of my amazing National Writing Project colleague and HEN partner Pam Bodnar, I will be able to join her students as they blog about the sights visited and personal insights experienced. I’ve added the Rwanda Trip 2012 blog to my RSS reader and am really looking forward to joining in the conversations and learning from both Pam’s students and Sacramento USD friend Jeremy Pretko’s students, who are also part of the AfriPeace organization.

But how do you prepare high school students to listen to and experience the first-hand accounts of 100 days of death and destruction as neighbor turned against neighbor in an effort to eliminate an entire group of people?  I think back to my college days when on a trip to Munich, Germany, I ventured to the Dachau concentration camp, with little more preparation on the topic of genocide than having read the Diary of Anne Frank as a 7th grader and maybe a page or two about the Holocaust in a college textbook. I was emotionally and physically ill for hours following the tour.

Pam’s students are prepared. Although now in high school, as 8th graders, they studied the Holocaust not only in their U.S. History class, but also as part of Pam’s Peer Mediators Team.  They delved into the events that led up to the exclusion, forced removal, and murder of over 6 million Jews and other “undesirables” during World War II. But they did not study the Holocaust as an isolated event on a timeline that happened “then and there.” Instead they researched connections from “then and there” to “here and now.” Events including the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. They approached events of the past and recent past as a call to social action.  They became “change writers.”

I hope you will join me in following the Rwanda Trip 2012 students in what I already know will be a highlight of the summer and a testimony to the power of youth to make a difference.

June 4, 2011
by blogwalker

Two Multimedia Literature Guides – Coming Soon!

My feet have still not quite hit the ground since my Pilgrimage to Manzanar trip and my bike ‘n barge trip across Holland with Hannie Voyles. But already I know that two of my summer projects will be to create multimedia teacher guides for two books I know middle – high school language arts/English/history teachers will want to add to their teaching toolkits:

Kiyo's Story

Kiyo's Story

Kiyo’s Story – One of my favorite take-aways from the Manzanar trip was an autographed copy of Kiyo Sato’s memoir of growing up in California – before, during, and after WWII.

“It is a magnificent memoir, fully worthy of being compared to Farewell to Manzanar. I cannot praise its pointillist realism, its Zen-like austerity, highly enough. Exquisite.”—Kevin Starr, author of California: A History

I have to take issue with Kevin Starr’s review. Kiyo’s Story provides something missing from Farewell to Manzanar: a window into the Issei (first generation of Japanese immigrants) experience in California and also makes visible the power of one’s culture to help overcome extreme challenges and attacks on human dignity. Kiyo also includes samples of upstanders (people who choose to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in situations where individuals need assistance), such as Edward Kelly Elementary School teacher Miss Cox.

I had the good fortune to interview Kiyo five years ago as part of my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. Kiyo’s interview will make a wonderful accompanying piece to her book – and upcoming multimedia teachers guide.  Since the release of Kiyo’s Story, there are also a number of online inteviews with her, such as the 2009 radio interview with KQED’s Dave Iverson and News & Review piece by Becky Grunewald, that I will be weaving into the multimedia teachers guide.


Storming the Tulips

Storming the Tulips – I first met Hannie two years ago, when my friend Pam Bodnar, a middle school counselor in Chico, shared with me a remarkable presentation Hannie did with Pam’s 8th grade students on how she survived the Nazi occupation of Holland. Hannie was a schoolmate of Anne Frank’s, a few years younger than Anne but also a student for a while at the same Montessori School. Whereas Anne’s story is one of hiding in the Annex, Hannie’s is from a street view.  Hannie and her sister were the eyes and ears for their Jewish mother, who, like Anne, had to remain hidden in their apartment, which was opposite Nazi headquarters.

Hannie’s compelling story is one of 20 first-hand accounts of survival and resilience included in Storming the Tulips:

Storming the Tulips is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children-contemporaries of Anne Frank -and this book is a companion to The Diary of Anne Frank. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured-in the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps. Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive in a world gone mad-the only world that they knew.”

Last month I traveled to Chico, along with Doug Niva, the very talented videographer who has played such a key role in the Time of Remembrance project, to do an interview with Hannie.  We will soon have clips from the interview online, both as stand-alone questions in 11th grade US History teacher Erin Goldman’s Beyond Anne Frank lesson, and as part of the soon-to-be-developed multimedia literature guide for Storming the Tulips.

So it may be a while yet before my feet finally touch the ground.

May 2, 2011
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Remembering Anne Frank: An Update

As we approach the 2011 Holocaust Days of Remembrance (May 1-8), I have a few more resources to add to last year’s  Remembering Anne Frank post:

  • Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story – From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the resources include a beautifully done tour of Anne Frank’s diary through images and audio clips.
  • Beyond Anne Frank.pdf – Created by Jennifer Norton, Regional Education Corps Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, to complement reading of The Diary of Anne Frank.
  • The Danish Solution – From Snag Learning, this documentary film is a tribute to the “upstanders” of Denmark.  It details how the Danish were able to save many of Denmark’s Jewish population when the Nazi’s Final Solution was implemented.  There are even discussion questions on the page, but thanks to Holocaust Educators Network (HEN) educator Diane Williams, here are two more thought-provoking, guiding questions:
    • What inspires us to act?  or Why act? (I think this is a question that gets to the root of what my students have grappled with over the years when studying the Holocaust – why did some act and some did not?)  This also allows them to look at fear as a motivator, principles, religious beliefs, humanitarian reasons.
    • What forms of resistance are the most effective?  When and Why?
  • An Interview with Hannie Voyles – Coming soon!! Last month I traveled with videographer Doug Niva to Chico, California, to interview Hannie Voyles, a Holocaust survivor and former schoolmate of Anne Frank. Hannie is also the translator and contributing author of the newly released Storming the Tulips, ““A tightly-knit connection and complement to Anne Frank’s story.”  I hope to have video clips online by next month.
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