Driving Question: How can we create an emotive and informative Holocaust Museum?
This was the first unit of our prelim course. The teacher I was collaborating with wanted to begin with a novel study, and I just wanted to mould whatever we did into a project. I’d discovered PBL the previous year and was convinced (still am) that Studies was the perfect forum for this style of teaching. I’d also stumbled across a series of podcasts on Hitler over the Christmas break and been totally sucked in by this period of history. Like most of the students at our school I knew a bit about the Holocaust, but given its gravitas I felt I should know more. Like this was something everyone should study at some point in their lives. So we settled on The Wave.
Two years on I’d probably go back and tighten up my benchmarks before teaching this again. It was the second PBL I’d implemented and I think I overcomplicated things a little. Rather than benchmarks breaking it down into acheivable lots, it kinda made more work… a fact that was politely pointed out by a student in the next project. Love student feedback. One benchmark I did really like though, was a ‘be the teacher’ style task. Teams had to package their research into an interesting lesson to be sent to a buddy class. Only one PowerPoint, thank god. My favourite (not that we have favourites) was this box:
Inside were images and facts about the Holocaust. The care and attention to detail that went into creating this was reassuring given the early days.
Ok, time to get to the product. I had images of this beautiful interactive museum, with low lighting and a heavy atmosphere. They delivered. One of my boys created a sound track of instrumentals that we had weaving through the room (gosh I hope I’ve saved that somewhere…) that made my skin crawl. It set a perfect, solemn tone for the museum. I’ve probably deviated from voice and choice a little in the past few years, but this project was loaded with it. Creating a museum gave them the chance to tap into an area of their choice. One girl was interested in the Dr Death experiments and re-created these, backing it up with signage detailing the dubious rationale for the experiments. We had living conditions recreated in both life-sized bunks and small models. ‘Meals’ were served to show the food intake in concentration camps, gas chamber models with dry ice were built … they were amazing. I feel an emotional rant coming on, so I may just pause here. Anyone wanting to delve down a path of joyous enthusiasm with me on their presentations, click here: English Studies. It’s a bludge, right?
So reflection time. I’d tighten benchmarks for sure. I’d probably have higher expectations on presentation day too. These days I’m not even around when they set up, they have my number but they seem to just get the job done. However, on this day I was frantically running around moving tables, finding sticky tape, “Oh miss do you have…?” I think someone even waltzed in mid way through eating food? Geez. How far we’ve come.