Finding inspiration in the dark

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News (From left): Cunningham eighth graders Mykia Wilson, Tiana Salinas, Ryan Newland, Caitlynn Blofeld, Ethan Kamppi, Trinity DuBois and Melanie Escobar stand by butterflies they decorated as part of a unit on the Holocaust led by teacher Katie Kincaid.

BELOIT - Eighth graders at Cunningham Intermediate School found learning about the Holocaust to be a painful yet necessary experience.

"Yes, I do think it is important for children to learn about the Holocaust in school because it is a very significant part in human history, and an event like this cannot be forgotten," said student Passion Tann.

At the conclusion of Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12, students put a unique and positive spin on the devastating moment in history. Teacher Katie Kincaid's seventh and eighth graders decorated butterflies with colors, designs, words and phrases each student felt was in honor of children lost. The Butterfly Project was created by Lauren Colleti in 2011 as a way to honor those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Student Melanie Escobar said she put a lot of colors on her butterfly to represent the beautiful lives that were lost. Even though it's sad, she said there were many beautiful moments between people who cared about each other. Escobar said she didn't know what Nazis were, or how they treated Jews, until her teacher gave the unit.

"They didn't really care about the Jews, and most people didn't love them (the Jews)," Escobar said.

Escobar said she also learned how people were executed in the gas chamber. Women and men not suited to work were simply put to death.

Trinity DuBois said she researched quotes from kids who survived the Holocaust to include on her butterfly.

"They were saying they wished they could be free," DuBois said. "Some of the survivors found light in the darkness. Some of them stayed positive."

DuBois explained how her class also did a missing person project where students wrote reports about Holocaust victims. Later the students learned from their teacher whether the victims had survived or not.

DuBois said she learned how people would be told they were going to the showers, only to be led to the gas chambers. Their shoes would be taken away from them and their hair would be shaved.

"It was interesting to learn about it, but sad at the same time. I enjoyed learning about it," DuBois said.

Eighth grader Ethan Kamppi decorated his butterfly with the colors of the German flag today and included a quote in German. He said he likes learning about the Holocaust and World War II so much he pursued study of it outside class.

Even though they studied a dark topic, students said found inspiration from Holocaust unit. Tann said she learned to show mercy, hospitality and compassion towards those who are in need.

"Most of the panel discussions I witnessed show how people overcame the evil forced upon them, and find a way to receive their happy ending. Even in the most dire situations, the people in the multiple novels found a way to make life worth living," Tann said.

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