|Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend part of a professional development seminar hosted by Facing History and Ourselves.
If you have not heard of this organization before, here is a quick introduction; by linking to historical events (such as the Holocaust and the American civil rights movement), students in Facing History classrooms learn about the everyday issues people face in their own lives and the importance of civic participation. Facing History and Ourselves began in 1976 in Brookline, Massachusetts, and has been working with educators in Canada since 1981. In partnership with the Toronto District School Board, Facing History developed a Grade 11 course called Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. The course was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education and now more than 500 students in 22 schools are taking the course.
The professional development seminar I attended was entitled Holocaust and Human Behaviour. For five days, participating educators have been immersed in topics such as identity, democracy, and memory, and learned about how to use Facing History’s extensive resource collection in their classroom. I visited and overheard a moving discussion about the importance of survivor memories in telling the complete story of events such as the Holocaust. Educators discussed how to properly interpret survivor accounts and incorporate them into their class activities.
If you are a Social Studies teacher in Canada and interested in learning more about Facing History and Ourselves, you can get in touch with the stellar team at their Toronto office. You can also review a profile of the work their organization is doing in Canada. The educator resources on their web site include collections on topics such as civil rights, Darfur, bullying, immigration, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Learning about civic participation through a historical lens can be a powerful way to incorporate civic studies into a history classroom.
Facing History will be conducting more seminars throughout the school year, so stay tuned!
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