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Gigi Ekstrom
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Trent Myers shares his stories with sixth graders.
A high point of the sixth grade literature curriculum explores a dark point in history. Students read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, while also learning about the Holocaust.

"It is a daunting, but important topic to introduce to sixth graders," said Elizabeth Schmitt, English and Literature teacher. "We finish up a unit encompassing Civil Rights in the United States, and then dive into World War II and anti-Semitism." Schmitt spends a week with her classes discussing the historical background of the Frank family and World War I and II using an interactive timeline on the Anne Frank House website.

To literally bring the topic home, students are asked to research what their families were doing during World War II. "My father was a radar operator in a B-24 Liberator, flying missions over Europe," said Schmitt. "Because he was Jewish, he flew with two sets of dog-tags. I didn't learn this about my dad until I was 12 years old. It made the war much more real to me." 

Myer's father, Trent, spoke to both sixth grade classes about his grandfather who spent over two years in Stalag III. He shared an illustrated journal that was passed carefully around the class. "I really liked learning about my heritage and reading about my great-grandfather and his heroic adventures, " said Emma. 

The sixth grade also took a field trip to the Dallas Holocaust Museum where they could see, up close, artifacts from the Holocaust, many donated by Dallas-area survivors. "I think seeing the Xyclon-B canister up close was the scariest thing," said Keegan Clendenin. "The exhibits made all we had studied very real. It made me wish that America had acted sooner."

The unit culminates with each student creating a diary from the perspective of someone in the Holocaust. Students can create a character, but most focus on real-life people such as Miep Gies, who helped hide the Frank family, Irena Sendler, who smuggled over 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Eva Schoss, an acquaintance of Anne Frank's who was also in hiding whose mother later married Otto Frank. 

Others use events such as Kristallnacht, the Voyage of the St. Louis, or the kindertransport as the background of their projects. "It has been really interesting finding out about Nicholas Winton," said Maddison Cerda. "Without doing this project, I would never have known that he saved hundreds of children from the Nazis."

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