MHM reaching more students during pandemic

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Northern Territory Students to Meet with Melbourne Holocaust Survivor COVID-19 creates a rare opportunity for students to engage directly

While remote learning has been challenging for many, for the Melbourne Holocaust Museum (MHM) in Melbourne it has opened up an opportunity for Holocaust survivors living in Melbourne to share their stories with students across Australia and for students and teachers around the country to use the Centre’s unique resources.

The MHM educates 23,000 students each year. With lockdown in March and elderly survivors remaining in their homes, it faced unprecedented challenges. The response was to build a suite of virtual learning resources and customised virtual workshops and create online learning opportunities for all Australian students, not just those in Victoria.

As the result, on Wednesday 26 August, 87 year old survivor, Paul Grinwald will meet virtually with up to 20 senior students from the Northern Territory School of Distance Education. They will be joining from across the NT and will have opportunity to ask Mr Grinwald questions about how his family survived in France during the Holocaust.

The class will be led by history teacher and graduate of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators at Yad Vashem, Toni Smid.  As part of her studies, Ms Smid travelled to Israel in 2017 and there she met with a 90 year old Holocaust survivor who inspired her deeply.  “As a history teacher, I’ve always chosen to teach the Holocaust,” she said.  It’s something I believe students should know about. I want them to examine how something like this could happen, how such extreme ideas can take hold and to think about parallels with today.  I also want them to see how strong the human spirit can be and that people can rebuild their lives.”

Among the participants will be 15 year old Aboriginal student, Taleah. Her grandparents were a part of the Stolen Generation and with help from her community, she’s now trying to piece together what happened to them. She feels that it’s very important to listen to other people’s stories and learn from them.

MHM Education Engagement Manager, Jennifer Levitt Maxwell says, “In Australia, we have Holocaust survivors who are eyewitnesses to history and who  engage with students and deeply enhance their learning experience. Hearing real stories makes this history far more memorable for students. This precious opportunity is available now, but the survivors are ageing and it won’t be with us forever.

“The highlight of our customised virtual workshop is meeting a survivor as it allows students to see that the Holocaust happened to ordinary people, who were of a similar age to themselves. It allows them to humanise the facts and statistics. Initially COVID-19 put a stop to this, but we have now managed to help a number of our survivors, with the aid of technology to engage with students.”

The MHM’s comprehensive suite of online teaching and engagement resources includes a virtual tour of the museum, an “Ask a Survivor” program and downloadable resources for teachers and students. The focus is on Melbourne-based survivors and the museum is home to more than 1,300 local survivor testimonies and 20,000 artefacts they brought with them to Australia. Students have access to an experience that may not be available to them in their own locality.

The MHM also works directly with teachers to customise learning programs for their students. Teachers can find out more about about virtual workshops here and virtual learning programs here, or by contacting the MHM education team at education@mhm.org.au