Carnation teacher helps students to greater understanding of the Holocaust

  • Wed May 31st, 2017 7:30am
  • Life

Sixth grade students at St. Louise School in Bellevue recently completed a six-week immersion study of the Holocaust, taught by Paula Patterson, of Carnation.

Patterson developed the in-depth program drawing from her experience at various conferences and workshops she takes to enhance her knowledge of genocide and the Holocaust. One of the most powerful workshops, she said, was the Eileen Ludwig Greenland Bearing Witness Summer Institute in Washington D.C., which she attended in 2014.

Thanks to an enrichment grant from the St. Louise Parents’ Club, Patterson’s sixth graders participated in a special program presented by Living Voices. Students got to know teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank more closely in “Through the Eyes of a Friend.”

A fictional story that remains faithful to Anne Frank’s life and her world, “Through the Eyes of a Friend” is told from the viewpoint of the girl’s fictional best friend. Sarah is a composite character inspired by the experiences and testimonies of many who knew Anne Frank at certain points in her life as well as young people who experienced the Holocaust throughout Europe.

The program follows Sarah and Anne as they are put on a train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, tattooed with numbers, and forced to suffer other indignities. The girls’ paths separate when Anne is taken to another camp called Bergen-Belsen, where she dies of typhoid, while Sarah stays on in Auschwitz, ultimately survives, and is liberated and reunited with family. Living a new life in America, Sarah is sent a copy of Anne’s diary and learns that she must never forget; through memory, her friend Anne lives on.

At the end of the presentation, students participated in workshops under the direction of a Living Voices performer. The students expressed how different parts of the story made them feel through movement and body position.

Under Patterson’s guidance, each year the students create artwork and write essays about the Holocaust. Working with St. Louise School’s art teacher, Mika Walker, the sixth graders recently submitted a group art project to the Holocaust for Humanity’s Writing, Art & Film Contest.

Their entry entitled “Stand Your Ground” was created in response to a quote from Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

The piece shows the students’ shoe prints in repetition, symbolizing working together for a common goal, and standing up for your beliefs. The words within the letters were written by the students, and describe their thoughts on whether or not one should protest the injustice seen in the world today.

Contest winners will be announced in June. Last year, two of Patterson’s students won awards for their entries in the contest, selected from 900 submitted from 70 different schools.

Taking part in as many educational experiences as she can about the Holocaust is important to Patterson, as she believes it enriches her curriculum. Her goal is to make the study of this significant time in human history have a lasting and meaningful impact on her students.

In June, she will travel with the Seattle Holocaust Center for Humanity to Poland where she will walk the streets of Warsaw, which was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world at the beginning of World War II. The trip will include visits to the newly built Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and a two-day visit of the memorial site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

“I strive to help my students connect to the Holocaust not simply with their heads, but with their hearts and spirits as well. Learning about the idea of the Holocaust isn’t enough. Connecting to the Holocaust spiritually and emotionally creates empathy and awareness that helps students become better Catholics, better Christians, better people.”