ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Holocaust Museum makes sure students across the state learn about the historical significance of the Holocaust.
The museum provides teaching trunks to educators in the state who need the resources to allow its message of hope to reach even more students.
Executive director Elizabeth Gelman said they have 83 trunks to send to schools.
“They are all grade-appropriate, from kindergarten through 12th grade. And they are for teaching the Holocaust. And they are packed full of books and videos and posters and artifact replicas, and you name it, are packed into each one of these trunks,” she said.
“Obviously we don’t teach about the Holocaust to kindergartners, it’s much more about character education until about 4th grade. And then 5th grade, we begin to teach about the Holocaust,” she added. “Once you get up into high school, there are specialized trunks, trunks that teach more about genocide and human rights violations.
The trunks are provided to teachers free of charge. They are available for six to eight weeks, then are sent back to the museum.
“They are designed to be used for either a whole class or a team of teachers. So let’s say that the teacher wants to teach Anne Frank, you’ll find there are 30 [of “The Diary of Anne Frank”] in that trunk, along with lots of other objects and different curriculum,” Gelman said.
The museum is currently in the middle of its “Trunks of Hope” campaign to raise funds to send the large teaching trunks around the state.
“People are donating online…or through social media. There are different pathways. And we are so appreciative because the state of Florida assists us in getting those trunks out to the different classrooms that need it, but the truth is it’s very expensive to send the trunks,” Gelman told us.
“And we believe so strongly in access, we don’t want any teacher to feel like they don’t have the materials that they need or that they don’t have enough information or education, we are here to help them no matter where they are throughout the state of Florida,” she said.
It’s actually a law that students in Florida public schools learn about the Holocaust. In 1994, the Florida legislature passed the Holocaust Education Bill, which requires all school districts to incorporate lessons on the Holocaust.
According to the law:
“Required Instruction – 1003.42(f) The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.”
Gelman said the teaching trunks are appreciated by educators.
“What’s wonderful is that sometimes there is a person who has underwritten a trunk and we have a few trunks that have been underwritten by Holocaust survivors,” she said. “And so when the kids write, when the teacher writes, it’s incredibly meaningful to the Holocaust survivors and the other donors who feel so passionately about education.”