Trip to aid in teaching Holocaust

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Teacher selected to visit D.C. museum with grant funds

All seventh-grade English teacher Marshall Reese wants is for his students to learn more and more, and a trip to the nation's capital next month will help him do just that.

The Beloit Turner Middle School educator was selected to participate in the Wisconsin Educators' U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Trip and Educational Seminar sponsored by the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations and the Coalition for Jewish Learning Holocaust Education and Resource Center.

The program aims to enhance educators' knowledge and ability to effectively teach students about the Holocaust.

It is made possible through a grant from the Helen Bader Foundation Inc.

Sixty-nine educators throughout the state also will participate.

Although Reese usually isn't interested in history, the Holocaust grabbed his attention when he had to read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in eighth grade.

“It was hard not to learn more about it,” he said. “It's fascinating how the world let it happen.”

Turner Middle School had been teaching the Holocaust when Reese started teaching there five years ago, but the unit lasted about a month.

With the help of another teacher, Reese developed the section into a nine-week unit but has since trimmed it because students lost interest after that long.

Reese teaches lessons about the Holocaust after spring break each year. To set the tone, he removes the baseball pennants and posters from his white walls and replaces them with black plastic table clothes and photographs depicting the time.

Most students start the unit without any knowledge of the Holocaust, Reese said. And, even those who have heard of it usually don't know as much as they thought they knew.

“I really don't hold back on them,” he said, explaining he will show them graphic images. “There's no sugarcoating.”

In addition to having the students read a play version of Anne Frank's diary and reading literature related to the Holocaust, Reese ties in more hands-on activities he thought of after visiting the Holocaust museum two years ago.

There, he walked through a cattle car, the type of vehicle used to transport Jews to the concentration camps.

Pictures couldn't compare to seeing the object up close.

“To see it firsthand is so much more realistic and memorable,” Reese said.

To give his students a similar feeling, Reese takes them in the hallway and shows them how big the car would be before telling them to step inside the boundaries.

Because Reese first visited the Holocaust museum as a tourist with limited time to explore the displays, he said he should gain more understanding and ways to better teach the material after the Sept. 22 trip.

“I'm looking forward to spending the time in the museum that it deserves,” he said.

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