Mars Middle School students Katie Olsen and Kyle Barber, both 14, have Holocaust projects on display until Wednesday at the Mars Public Library.
ADAMS TWP — A project at Mars Middle School will enlighten a new generation on the tragedy of the Holocaust and the triumph of those who survived. Kim Morris, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at the school, set out to warn all 260 eighth graders of the dangers of blindly following a persuasive individual, and to educate them regarding the horrors experienced as the Nazis attempted to exterminate the Jews in the 1940s. “The students have to know what’s going on in our world, and be aware of what can happen if we don’t remember the stories of those people and the things that happened to them,” Morris said. The students began by studying the well-known biography, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as well as the incidents that caused World Wars I and II. Morris and her fellow eighth grade teachers then used the invaluable information included on the Holocaust Memorial Museum website, where students watched videotaped interviews with hundreds of survivors. The website also includes the writings of Holocaust survivors, who tell their tales of misery, persecution and determination to survive the event. Morris said each student was assigned a specific survivor on the website, and had to read three of that individual’s written pieces. Students then wrote an essay about the experiences of their survivor, with the last paragraph explaining how that person was unique. A map of the survivor’s whereabouts during the Holocaust as well as a picture of the individual were also included in each student’s project. Morris chose the top 27 projects and put them on display at the Mars Public Library, where they will remain set up in the Agnes Hudac Youth Library until Wednesday. “The community needs to see the things we’re studying,” Morris said of the partnership with the public library. The public is invited to come hear a number of students give presentations on their projects at 7 p.m. Monday at the library. Jen Ford, youth activities director at the library, said on Tuesday that the projects are very well done. She said Morris displayed the projects on shelving so that library visitors can walk up and down the aisles to peruse each one. Ford said she is excited to partner with Mars School District, and to offer visitors information on such a significant subject. “The school district and the public library go hand in hand,” Ford said. “We’re all about learning.” Mars Middle School Principal Rich Cornell said he applauds Morris’ efforts. “It’s important for students to learn about the Holocaust and the effect it has had on the world,” Cornell said. “We try to provide students with many educational experiences in order to reflect on this era.” Cornell said the unit on the Holocaust was to wrap up with an assembly on Friday in which Holocaust survivors Hans and Diana Lesheim would share their experiences with students. He said the entire experience would enhance the students’ knowledge regarding the Holocaust, its meaning, and its survivors. “I think it’s wonderful that the students are learning about this important time in history.”