When Amanda Pack attended the Georgia Council for Social Studies’ annual conference last month, she didn’t expect to bring a museum to Gardner Newman Middle School (GNMS). Just one month later, through her connections and networking at the conference, the Mustangs now have a Holocaust museum living in their media center.
Pack, who teaches 6th grade Social Studies and Current Events for 7th and 8th grade students at GNMS, met with the field education team from Kennesaw State University, she found they had traveling exhibits and one of them focused on an area that touched several subjects – The Holocaust Museum. “I didn’t know what to expect from the conversation. The team at Kennesaw State told me they would come set it up for a few weeks, come and remove it, and it would not cost the school or district a thing. I thought it was too good to be true,” said Pack as she laughed.
Never Forget: An Introduction to the Holocaust highlights Norbert Friedman’s account of his Holocaust experience. He is an Atlanta resident and his stories are featured in oral history recordings and the Never Forget traveling exhibit. Never Forget: An Introduction to the Holocaust features six free-standing, glossy backdrops with photos representing this time in history, quotes from survivors, timelines, and other pertinent information to help a young learner connect with events from the Holocaust.
When Pack walked a group of 6th graders through the exhibit, it wasn’t long before they began asking questions. During one session, she showed them the clothing those in concentration camps wore, what they ate, and documentation needed to be considered a citizen. One of the photos within the exhibit depicted a German soldier checking a man’s teeth and a student inquired with a simple, “why does he have his hand in his mouth?” It gave Pack an opportunity to dig deeper into the lesson and provide context, “The prisoners were checking for gold teeth. You see, the soldiers took anything of value from the Jewish people…even their teeth if they were of value,” she stated.
Pack said this exhibit has been an exciting twist to teaching, “Beyond the obvious educational benefits this brings to Gardner Newman, it reinforces a school-wide interactive learning center. Our motto is Go the Second Mile, and by getting the students out of their desks to create a tactile experience for them, it models the school motto of putting in that little bit extra. It is going the second mile and doing more than the expected.”
“This is something the students will be able to connect across subjects. For instance, in English Language Arts, they will be reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which is a book set in WWII and is told through the eyes of an eightyear- old. When the students begin reading, they will already have terminology about the Holocaust and can make greater inferences and associations as they read the book.”
And the students are hungry for more. It does not take them long to become intrigued by what they through the eyes of Norbert Friedman. By the time they enter the museum, they have already seen recordings of his oral accounts pertaining to the Holocaust experience. Many of them asked Pack if they could do more hands-on learning like the exhibit. They also proclaimed the museum is really interesting and neat.
The three priorities for Troup County School System are literacy, providing rigorous and relevant learning, and creating a culture of success. Pack and her students say this segways into all three priorities, “The exhibit gives students of all grade levels the chance to learn in an alternate environment and affords them the opportunity to see the Holocaust from the eyes of Norbit, who was eleven years old at the time. It makes the atrocities all the more relevant to their lives, but also provides an opportunity for students to self-guide, selfexplore and self-educate,” said Pack.
When Pack is not showing her class around the museum, se is spending time with family, camping, watching Auburn football, or traveling. As the content leader and History Club sponsor, Pack said she wants to inspire students as she was when she was in school, “I had a middle school social studies teacher reach out to me in the 8th grade. She made history come alive and I fell in love with the subject. She connected with the troubled teen I was and created a relationship with me that changed the trajectory of my life. I decided many years later to pay that kindness forward and that now I am a middle school history teacher.”
About Troup County School System Troup County School System is an accredited educational system with over 11,900 students in grades K-12. TCSS does offer a free Pre-K program at each elementary school. The system is comprised of eleven elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, one college and career academy, and one alternative learning center. Students within the school system are taught a rigorous and relevant curriculum that helps them make college and career choices beyond graduation and succeed in life. The system 2017 graduation rate rose 6.6 percentage points in three years to 78.0 percent. To learn more about Troup County School System, visit troup.org and the Troup County School System Facebook page.