FSWC's First Margaret's Legacy Workshop for York Region District School Board School in Vaughn
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
This week, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) facilitated their first workshop utilizing the new Journeys curriculum developed by Margaret’s Legacy. This unique opportunity was presented to one of the public schools in Vaughn, Ontario ( @YRDSB ) , as a ‘micro-history’ of the Holocaust, built around the stories of Margaret Stadler and Arthur Weisz, a young Jewish couple whose story of courage and perseverance in the face of Nazi hatred.
Several hundred students gathered to watch the video detailing the stories of Margaret and Arthur and their lives before, during and after the Holocaust. Educators were not sure how younger students (grade 3-4s) would respond to the video given that it is 35 minutes, but were delighted to find that almost all were very attentive for the duration of the film.
After a 15-minute Q&A, educators spent the rest of the day visiting individual classes for follow-up sessions where they provided context about the Holocaust and WWII, answered many questions, and facilitated an interactive activity.
It was during these breakout sessions that they really got an impression of how students had processed the information about Margaret and Arthur during WWII. They ran five 40-minute sessions with all grade 5s and 6s, as well as one grade 4 gifted class. With each group they had endless questions about Margaret and Arthur’s personal story, about the Holocaust itself, and about WWII as whole.
Another major highlight of the day came from the discussion questions they asked each group. Several students throughout the day made empathetic connections between the experiences of Margaret and Arthur and their own family stories of escape and survival.
One boy shared the fact that his father and grandfather made a daring escape from Hong Kong many decades ago while his father was still a young child. In order to escape from the island, they had to swim across dangerous waters in the dead of night, a journey that many others did not survive due to the strong currents and passing ships.
Another student explained that she had escaped with her entire family from her birth country of Iran when she was just two years old.
A third shared that while he was born in Canada, his family had to leave Yugoslavia in the 1990s because things were very difficult in his home territory of Bosnia.
The teachers at the school were also very enthusiastic about Margaret’s Legacy because it connects perfectly with the book Refugee by Alan Gratz, which all students in grades 5-6 have either read or are currently reading.
The teacher who helped organize the pilot program at this school was thrilled with how successful the day was and wants to bring students to the FSWC in January for follow-up workshops.
When recapping the successes of the day, one of FSWC’s educators concluded that Margaret’s Legacy’s program is in fact an extremely effective tool for young students to gain important concepts surrounding the Holocaust. This program is free to all schools in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton regions. Cost is nominal to schools outside of this area.