There is nothing more rewarding than facing, even virtually, a large group of enthusiastic and focused students who have been well-prepared by their teachers and geared up to take part in one of our Virtual Workshops, inclusive of Museum Tour and Survivor Q&A.
On Wednesday 31 March, I was privileged to host 145 Year 10 students from Sunshine College. With our wonderful survivor, Sarah Saaroni, we were able to share our very carefully orchestrated Holocaust journey. Whilst unable to be with these students face-to-face, I could see them in a tiny box on the right-hand corner of my computer screen, as they became more immersed in the program as the session progressed.
Presenting them with our Introduction to the Holocaust – ‘What? Why? When? How?’ – filled me with a sense of purpose as the students shared their initial thoughts and ideas about the things they had been studying during their World War II history lessons. As we continued our journey through the museum, we were able to touch upon the various phases of the Holocaust. This ensured that these students did not miss out on any opportunity to discover what had taken place during the Holocaust.
We departed the museum and the students were then invited to share and discuss the artefacts they had been introduced to. ‘Which artefacts had the greatest impact or effect upon you? If you could select one or two to help explain the Holocaust to another person, which would you choose?’ This activity provided the students with a way to share their personal responses and impressions of what they had seen. It is always fascinating to hear their ideas – especially the reasons why they have chosen a particular artefact.
Finally, it was time for the students to meet Sarah. This is what they had all been waiting for. Having seen Sarah’s testimony earlier in the week, the students had their questions prepared. I know it’s a big call, but I must be honest when I tell you that each and every question had been thoughtfully and sensitively prepared. These students showed great empathy as well as a genuine understanding for the loss and grief Sarah had experienced as a young girl, coping all alone in Nazi-occupied Europe. Many were obviously quite moved by her experiences, with many of them expressing how grateful they were to be able to hear Sarah’s stories, together with very her honest responses to their probing questions.
For those of us who work with our visiting schools and students, continuing to educate them as best we can under the current COVID circumstances, we are aware that we are truly blessed to have this opportunity introduce them to the Holocaust – helping them gain a clearer understanding and greater knowledge. As difficult as this can be at times, being with the students and their passionate educators is the most rewarding experience I could ever wish for. Thank you to Sunshine College for your tolerance, empathy, compassion and of course, respect.
Soo, Education Team
Image: Soo teaching our In Touch With Memory program on site at our temporary location in Malvern East.