Holocaust Education Initiative releases first set of free instructional material

March 25, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To help teachers remotely engage their students during the coronavirus crisis, Penn State’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative has released its first set of free learning resources.

The initiative — a Penn State partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and several state and national organizations to provide educators with the tools to tackle difficult topics — has been developing instructional material for classroom use. Responding to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced schools to close across the state, the innovative program readied some of its learning resources for home use.

“Teachers and parents face a herculean task keeping their students and children’s growth and development on an upward trajectory,” said Boaz Dvir, an assistant professor of journalism in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and director of the Initiative. “We hope this instructional material can assist their virtual-teaching and home-schooling efforts.”

Free access to ready-to-use individual learning activities for students in fifth grade and older (ages 10 and up) are available at: https://tinyurl.com/HumanRightsEducationModule.

“Research shows that learning doesn’t just happen in schools,” said the initiative’s education lead consultant Scott Metzger, an associate professor of social studies education. “That is why we also offer resources to support teaching and learning at home. They are essential during times of school closures but are always useful to families and home-schoolers.”

Along with the Bellisario College, Penn State entities that make up the Initiative include the colleges of Education and the Liberal Arts, the School of Law, the Humanities Institute, the Jewish Studies Program, and the Center for Immersive Experiences.

“Research shows that learning doesn’t just happen in schools. That is why we also offer resources to support teaching and learning at home. They are essential during times of school closures but are always useful to families and home-schoolers.”

— Scott Metzger, associate professor of social studies education

In addition to Dvir and Metzger, participating professors include: Eliyana Adler, associate professor of Jewish studies and history; Tiya Maluwa, the H. Laddie Montague Chair in Law; Alexander Kippel, professor of geography and director of the Center for Immersive Experiences; Efrain Marimon, an assistant professor and director of Penn State’s Restorative Justice Initiative; Ashley N. Patterson, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; and Tobias Brinkmann, the Malvin E. and Lea P. Bank associate professor of Jewish studies and history. Melissa Stanley, a College of Education Ph.D. student, serves the Initiative’s first doctoral assistant.

“While teachers and parents are doing a phenomenal job of adapting, we recognize that not all materials are readily usable and adapting them takes valuable time,” said Stanley, who taught high school social studies before joining the Initiative in August. “We need to support each other and hope that this ready-to-use curated material helps to alleviate some stress.”

Dvir, Metzger, Stanley and Penn State College of Education graduate students Kate Van Haren, Kimberly Imel and John Wortman have been producing learning resources to accompany several documentaries:

  •  “A Wing and a Prayer,” an hour-long PBS film directed and produced by Dvir that won Best Documentary at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. It tells the story of World War II veterans racing against the clock to prevent what they viewed as a second Holocaust.
  •  A documentary about immigration by the Humanities Institute’s HuminFocus project, which illustrates the importance of the humanities through a web series.
  •  A documentary short about human rights by Retro Report, a New York-based nonprofit entity that produces short documentaries to “arm the public with a more complete picture of today’s most important stories” for NBC, Univision, the New Yorker, Politico and others.
  •  “Cojot,” Dvir’s forthcoming feature documentary chronicling a Holocaust survivor who set out to kill his father’s Nazi executioner. 

Offering Pennsylvania K-12 teachers free professional development, the Initiative seeks to pioneer an approach to difficult-topic instruction that incorporates the latest research and best practices.

“Educators want and need to address difficult subjects with their students,” Dvir said. “We’re building a program to help them face 21st-century challenges, ranging from having to teach remotely because of a pandemic, to giving their students the intellectual and emotional tools to resist hate-mongering on the internet.”

  • Melissa Stanley

    Melissa Stanley

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Scott Metzger

    Scott Metzger

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated April 22, 2020