WARWICK – It was a Sunday like any other Sunday at the Warwick Mall. Except that it wasn’t. The usual assortment of shoppers and mall walkers were there, but there was also something happening that seemed incongruous at first, but upon further inspection was in the right place at the right time.
What made April 8 different was the Holocaust and Genocide Educational Resource Expo sponsored by the Rhode Island Holocaust-Genocide Education Committee. It was the right time because April is Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Month and it was the right place because throngs of parents, students and teachers pass through the mall on a typical Sunday afternoon.
In September of 2016 Governor Raimondo signed the Holocaust-Genocide Education Bill and the committee came together to develop curriculum materials. Starting this school year, all Rhode Island public middle and high schools are required to educate students about the Holocaust and Genocide. It is expected that students will learn the root causes and how to discuss the ramifications of these atrocities in hopes of preventing them from ever happening again.
Organizers of the expo hoped to provide information to the general public, and curriculum resources to enhance teacher instruction on the subject matter. According to committee member and educator Barbara Wahlberg, “Today’s expo is the place to come to connect teachers with educational organizations and to pick up ideas and resource materials.”
Pauline Getzoyan, co-chair of the Rhode Island branch of the Genocide Education Project added, “The goal of this event is to introduce ourselves, sort of like a coming out party for our committee, so people and teachers know more about this legislation, what it requires and ultimately to encourage teachers to include this subject matter in their curriculum and help create a renewed sense of civic and global responsibility within our students.”
Getzoyan noted, “That’s why we have exhibitors here with educational resources and ideas, including teachers who are successfully teaching this in their schools and classrooms so that teachers can see how it can be included without a great deal of extra effort.”
Steve Flynn, from Tollman High School, and Claudia Traub, of Sophia Academy, attended along with some of their students, to discuss their lessons and experiences teaching about the Holocaust and Genocides.
Expo exhibitors included The Genocide Education Project, the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, Echoes and Reflection, The Choices Program at Brown University, and the Center for Southeast Asians (CSEA).
Solight Sou, program manager at CSEA, said “I represent a community that has been in Rhode Island for going on 40 years but still faces socio-cultural challenges and we hope to spread awareness for all communities that have been affected by genocide.”
Summing up the day Getzoyan said, “We want to teach students the importance of learning from the past so that we can prevent these atrocities from happening in the future. We’re trying to reach the younger generation so that “Never Again” truly becomes true.
The Rhode Island Holocaust-Genocide Education Committee works with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and other educational institutions in the state, to develop curriculum materials to assist educators in teaching about the Holocaust and Genocide in their classrooms. The committee has provided RIDE with curricular ideas and materials that are currently available on the RIDE website. The committee encourages educators to utilize the information on the website.
For more information about the work of the Holocaust-Genocide Education Committee, contact Barbara Wahlberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Pauline Getzoyan at email@example.com.
LEV POPLOW is a communications consultant writing on behalf of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust education Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.