DAVIDSON – The halls of the Community School of Davidson were flush with excited sixth-graders May 20 as they decided where to hang photos of survivors, covered lockers to look like crematoriums and painted displays.
For the seventh year, the charter school at 565 Griffith St., is being converted into a museum to teach students – and the public – about the 6 million people, predominantly of the Jewish faith, killed during the Holocaust.
The public is invited to tour the museum 4-6 p.m. May 30 and 1-4 p.m. June 2. Though all are welcome to attend, the event is recommended for children older than sixth grade because of the content.
“Every year I’ve been here, we’ve had this museum and every year it’s gotten better,” said sixth-grader Emerson Houser. “We want to make sure this never happens again. Just because we are capable of these things, it shouldn’t happen.”
While materials are reused, each year students add something new to the display. Because it’s a sixth-grade project, seventh- and eight-graders can remember what they learned and help. The initiative encompasses history, art, math, science and writing, plus incorporates personality characteristics the school emphasizes. What started as a small exhibit now fills every hallway and three classrooms in the middle school. Displays include Hitler’s rise to power, propaganda, the concentration camps, heroes, liberation, survivors and hope.
“It’s always new,” said art teacher Beth Knight, who oversees the project with social studies teacher Dorothy Pagan. “Each is a new group and they show it in a different way.”
A new addition is how the United States responded to the Holocaust, not by military, but as residents. It includes the story of the S.S. St. Louis, which was filled with refugees headed to Cuba with the intent of then going to the United States. Passengers weren’t admitted into the country and the majority was forced to return to Europe.
“The Holocaust is a great example of what happens when you are intolerant of others,” said Knight of why the Holocaust was chosen as the theme. “In sixth grade, they learn about relationships and understanding perspective of looking at things in a different way. This shows what happens when you don’t do that. It’s a beautiful way to discuss it while learning about the harsh event.”
Pagan said students can relate to it by deciding how they would react if they see an injustice, even if it’s on a smaller scale like bullying in the hallway – would they be a bystander and watch, join the bullying or stand up to them?
The exhibit inspires student Cora DeGrauw because “they went through such a hard time but kept their hope and faith. People need to be hopeful even when going through a hard time.”
Alexa Levi, Meredith McKee and Emma Hassen have been working on the heroes display. It honors people who snuck out or helped smuggle others to safety. Museum patrons will be able to open lockers and see stories of the heroes, plus learn what makes a hero.
Levi said she has been looking forward to the project since her older sister participated.
“You get to learn about what happened in the past and how they risked their lives,” she said. “It shows how one person can make a huge difference in the world.”