Teaching the Holocaust in Kindergarten Classrooms

Author: Krista Spera

School/Organization:

Shawmont Elementary School

Year: 2014

Seminar: Teaching the Holocaust: Bearing Witness

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Keywords: 20th century, discrimination, Holocaust, Holocaust education, kindergarten

School Subject(s): English, Literature, Social Studies

The Holocaust was a time period within the 20th century when discrimination and prejudice were the reason the Jewish people in Europe were treated unfairly, denied of their rights as humans, and persecuted. By the end of the Holocaust in 1945 approximately six million Jewish men, women, and children lost their lives due to horrific acts of hate. Today, we still remember the Holocaust not only within the United States, but all over the world. Schools throughout many different countries teach students not only about the events that occurred during the Holocaust, but also to teach children moral lessons as well. While children of all ages can be shown or taught moral lessons, the same cannot be said about teaching the historical events of the Holocaust specifically. Though there have not been many studies conducted that prove the appropriate age that children should be introduced to the Holocaust, it has been suggested that during the primary grades it is not included within the curriculum. In fact, Schweber (2012) claims “many high school students at the junior and senior levels have great difficulty understanding of that torturous history, so how can anyone expect a child at the K-4 level to do so?”

The focus of this paper is to examine the research conducted on teaching the Holocaust to young students in the early years of schooling, as well as the positive and negative outcomes that come with introducing the topic early on in school. The difficulties that early childhood educators may face is also examined. Finally, an alternative to exposing young students to the Holocaust is presented. Rather than presenting the complex subject matter to students that may not understand, teachers should teach about the themes related to the Holocaust, such as prejudice, discrimination, tolerance and equality. This paper argues in favor of Simone Schweber’s proposal (2012) where these themes are introduced to younger students in an age appropriate matter “which ought not to be called “Holocaust education”, but rather “pre-holocaust education”.”

Download Unit: Spera-Krista-unit.pdf

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