By Annette McLoughlin

Thanks to teachers Francesca Miller and Dr. Michele Haiken, Rye Middle School eighth graders can learn about World War II through a new interdisciplinary Humanities course.

“Our aim was to assure that students would learn to think more critically about history and literature,” they explained. Miller, who teaches History, incorporated topics around the Holocaust. She was inspired by Facing History and Ourselves, an educational nonprofit whose mission is “to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”

While World War II is not a new topic in the eighth-grade curriculum, the approach is now very different. Students will create a final project using various sources various to highlight themes of World War II.

In their ELA class, students will concurrently be directed through the history of the war through literature, poetry, and plays, to understand that there is no one story for all,” said Haiken, who teaches English.

Students will participate in “literature circles” and read excerpts from diaries and testimonies about the Holocaust and the war. A trip to the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City is also being planned.

Haiken and Miller hope students will gain a deeper and multi-faceted understanding of why and how events like the Holocaust can occur, going beyond a set of facts and dates.

Rye Middle School teachers Dr. Michele Haiken and Francesca Miller