The Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) is leading the way in Holocaust educational programs for students in the middle years of their schooling.
The Hide & Seek program, which has been funded by Gandel Philanthropy since 2014, introduces students aged 10 to 14 to concepts of human rights, tolerance and social responsibility in an age-appropriate and innovative way.
“These themes are important parts of middle years curricula, as students develop their sense of who they are in the world,” said Lisa Phillips, Director of Education at the MHM.
“We apply a ‘safely in safely out’ approach, adapted from Yad Vashem, so that students at a suitable level for their stage of development explore basic moral issues that underpin a multicultural, tolerant and democratic society.”
The catalyst for this program came about when the MHM hosted a travelling Anne Frank exhibition in partnership with Gandel Philanthropy. This exhibition attracted a wider range of schools and students than typically visit the MHM. The Anne Frank story is accessible to a younger audience and represents a case study of the mass murder of children and teenagers that took place in the Holocaust. Anne’s diary captures her voice from the ages of 13 to 15 so the reader is presented with an authentic voice of a child similar in age.
Anne’s diary presents her responses to a changing world, as well as universal themes including prejudice, and racism. Importantly, she writes about the Righteous Among the Nations, those who stood up to racism and assisted those in peril.
Gandel Philanthropy was quick to respond to this unique educational opportunity by providing seed funding to pilot the Hide & Seek program in 2014, which proved immensely successful. Following the pilot, Gandel Philanthropy has been steadily growing its support for the initiative, enabling the program’s continued growth and success.
“This program is an initiative that clearly fills a gap in the knowledge and learning by young people. By telling the human stories of one of the worst atrocities in the history of the world, the program can help develop empathy and shape children’s attitudes, so they understand how they can become a force for good in their communities,” said Nicole Brittain, Grant Manager of Jewish and Israel programs with Gandel Philanthropy.
“The MHM draws upon its vast collection of survivor testimonies and artefacts enabling students to connect with primary source material such as identification cards, Jewish yellow stars, letters, photographs and books from the Holocaust period,” Ms Phillips said.
“One of the core activities is the concept of hiding by changing one’s identity. False identity cards based on authentic documents were created to simulate this experience. Students are issued with false identity cards carrying the details they have to memorise. Students are then tested on the details. This highlights the challenges of taking on a new identity in order to survive. It also demonstrates how fascist laws, enforced by prejudice, necessitated the denial of one’s heritage,” Ms Phillips said.
Teachers have embraced this program and student numbers have grown steadily since its inception.
“I have been organising excursions for Year 7 students over many years and Hide & Seek is the most powerful, engaging and thought-provoking experience for young people. When we return to school the students are keen to ask questions and discuss the experience and what they learnt,” said Andree Buchanan, Year 7-10 Humanities Coordinator at Luther College
“The program was age-appropriate and the overall message was positive, encouraging students to feel empathy, take a stance and not allow such an event to happen again.”
“The program creates an engaging learning experience whereby students will understand that a democratic and multicultural society is not automatically created. Society needs important values and behaviours to protect and maintain it and guard against the dangers and consequences of prejudice, intolerance and racism,” said Museum Director Jayne Josem.
The Hide & Seek program won the 2015 Education and Early Childhood Award in the Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence and was recognised globally as a ground-breaking program in primary school Holocaust education at a 2016 UK conference.