AUGUSTA, Maine — In an effort to teach students about the Holocaust and other genocides, the Maine Department of Education has released some related "MOOSE" modules.
MOOSE stands for Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education, and they are free and available to anyone who has internet access. The modules use an interdisciplinary, project-based approach. The modules are intended to be used by students and educators at every grade level, and all include age-appropriate material to help students learn about the events of the holocaust and associated themes and concepts.
“Our team worked hard to convey a difficult topic to all students, and the partnership with HHRC has been critical to making it happen. It is not only the amazing product they have produced but also the tools they have gained and will take back to use in their classrooms — that’s exciting to see. The experience of this project has been something we won’t forget, and the relationships built between HHRC, DOE, and educators from all over the state will last a long time," Erica Nadelhaft, the HHRC Education Coordinator, said.
Any teacher or parent can use the modules to teach their kids. Nadelhaft said her team found a way to talk about the topic without getting into much detail for younger kids and in ways that's easy to digest and understand. Once the students get to sixth grade, they introduce the topic of the Holocaust.
"For the Pre-K through sort of fourth and fifth years, certainly Pre-K through second we thought we can't mention the holocaust, we can't mention genocide, but what we can work on are some of those foundational skills the foundational pieces that students need in order to at a later age go on and study topics like this so we concentrated on building empathy, understanding what it means to be part of a group, and understanding what it means to be excluded from a group," Nadelhaft said.
"As human beings, it's very important to know what we are capable of, both good and bad, because if we don't recognize that, we miss what's happening in the present day as well, and I also think simply it's important to remember what happened to these people. Millions and millions and millions of people died because they were Jewish, because they were different, and I think we owe it to them to remember, regardless if we've personally been touched by the Holocaust," Nadelhaft told NEWS CENTER Maine.
For many years Holocaust studies were not mandatory in Maine schools, but that will change soon. Starting this next school year, a bill approved by Maine Gov. Janet Mills will include that the history of the genocide and the Holocaust to be added and taught in Maine schools.
This bill got approved, after the release of surveys in 2020 that found a widespread lack of knowledge of the Holocaust among Maine students.
“There is a saying that ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme,’” HHRC Executive Director Tam Huynh said. “We urge the Maine legislature to pass these two important measures to address the concerning lack of knowledge of the Holocaust and the alarming rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial in Maine and across the country.”
“The only way we can get to ‘never again’ is to educate this generation and each generation that follows that the Holocaust was very, very real for the 6 million Jews who perished and the many millions of LGBTQ, Roma, and other minorities who were persecuted," Nadelhaft said.
Click here to access the modules.
Here is a link to the bill that passed.
To visit or learn more about the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, click here.