Teaching responsibility to children

Miller youth exhibition to teach mutual respect

Miller and the organizers of the children’s feature in the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center said they intend to teach youngsters about one of the worst atrocities in history in a way that is both age-appropriate and life-changing.

See Also: Remember One

(http://www.pioneerlocal.com/holocaustmuseum/news/1528934,holocaust-miller-exhibit-040909-s1.article)

Pioneer Local, April 15, 2009

By RONNIE WACHTER rwachter@pioneerlocal.com

Inside the nation’s largest children’s exhibit dealing with the Holocaust, elementary students will learn not about horrors and genocide, but about how their actions — and inactions — affect those around them.

Without shocking the youngsters, the creators of the Miller Foundation Youth Exhibition hope their visitors exit with a level of awareness that might shock their elders.

“I’d love nothing better than for them to go home and ask their parents ‘Why do you hate so much?’ ” said Harvey Miller, president of the foundation.

Miller and the organizers of the children’s feature in the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center said they intend to teach youngsters about one of the worst atrocities in history in a way that is both age-appropriate and life-changing.

“Our goal is to get visitors to think about respecting each other,” said Alexis Storch, youth exhibition education director. “What we want is for people to think, ‘How would I respond in that situation?’ ”

The method, as Storch and Miller described, is to show children principles such as the ripple effect — how the impact their lives make affect everything around them; the importance of character traits like courage, tolerance and communicating; and feeling personal responsibility, rather than apathy, for questionable things they see. Miller said that although no one in his family was involved in the Holocaust, he felt personal responsibility to teach others.

“The more they know about it, the more sure I am that they won’t let it happen again,” he said.

The exhibit will take up much of the lower level of “the black building,” the entry point for the entire museum, and is one of the first features visitors will be able to see. Its 2,700 square feet will feature seven four- and five-minute films about the Holocaust; two computer stations with interactive presentations about knowing one’s identity and respecting others’; recorded messages from survivors and rescuers; and a classroom.

Tours will involve around 20 kids, a pair of chaperones and the guides, who officials said have gone through 20 weeks of training for giving age-appropriate answers to questions about a complicated subject. Noreen Brand, director of education, said the Miller exhibit expands on the groundwork laid by smaller children’s features in other Holocaust museums.

“Nothing that is as hands-on and as dynamic as this exists,” Brand said.

She said there are no graphic images or descriptions of the Holocaust, only a presentation aimed at making young minds more thoughtful.

“How does neighbor help neighbor, versus neighbor turning on neighbor?” she said.

Miller said he wanted teachers and parents who visit to take something away as well: a desire to include Holocaust education in their classrooms.

“It will mean nothing if it’s not followed through by the schools and the parents,” he said.

Miller said he takes it as his mission to teach the next generation about theirs.

“They have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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