Junior High school project

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1 Context

(Junior High school:12 – 14 years old)

This project, described by Proulx (2004), was carried out by two group-classes of students following a course of History of the contemporary world, which a part of the contents treats Italian and German Fascism of 1919 to 1945. The teacher tackles this subject through various angles such as history, geography and economy - as the program demands - but also by the music, the cinema and arts. Mainly focused over the period of the Nazism, the teacher proposes to live during 48 hours a historical reconstitution of the relationship between Germans and Jews in Germany of 1938.

The teacher indicated one of his group-classes to be a group of German soldiers, another to be Jews or other representatives of the social classes of Germany of the time (Communists, gipsies, rabbis...). Thus identified students from the two groups were to establish between them constantly and at any place in the school, relations reflecting the Nazi time. The teachers of the other branches had to collaborate during their periods of course to reinforce the trainings to be realized in this project.

2 Learning objectives

  • To understand the nature and the consequences of an ideology of extreme right based on the racial superiority and the deprivation of the rights and freedoms of the person
  • To initially understand human dimension in the interpretation of facts and historical events
  • To show rigour, precision and nuance in the interpretation of facts or historical events
  • To support the transfer of disciplinary competences in learning.

3 Preparation of the project

Although being held over 48 hours, the project required a relatively thorough preparatory work:

  1. the teacher exposes in class the historical contents, the broad outline of Germany of the time, in order to improve knowledge of students on the subject, then described the project and its teaching objectives.
  2. to familiarize students with the studied historical context, it makes them listen to jazz of the time and show them Swing Kids, a film which is held in 1938-1939 in Hamburg and shows the evolution of the Nazi thought at a group of young people.
  3. the teacher carries out the formation of two groups. For the group of German soldiers, the characteristics of the Aryan profile are taken into account whereas for the other group, the distribution in the various roles is random.
  4. Teacher and students carry out the individual identification of their character or groups membership. As follows:
    1. the police officer wear a white shirt, tie and black jacket, as well as a red arm-band with swastika.
    2. the representatives of the other group are identified according to their social membership: Communists (red triangle), gipsies (brown triangle), rabbis (mauve triangle), Jews (Star of David), homosexual (pink triangle).
    3. Students receive an indentity card conform at the time with boxes in which the police force will be able to announce misconduct. Once all boxes filled, the person exposes herself to a stay in a camp "of internment" at the end of the activity. These cards bear names of people having really lived during this period and students must respect to the maximum historical reality of their character.
    4. Still to ensure historical respect, students carry clothing of the times.
    5. Finally, the teacher ensures himself of the collaboration of the direction of the school and of the other teachers, thus optimizing to the maximum the repercussions of the project.

4 Implementation of the project

During 2 complete days at the school, students play their role. Any moment and anywhere in the school, the soldiers can use their powers and intervene with people of "lower" social classes. They can hail who they want, to ask people to be identified, to scoff at them, to order them a blind respect to the authority...

The teachers of other matters take again in class the disturbing or offensive behaviors for the authority. The teacher, disguised in representative SS, supervise the operation, being able to intervene with the two groups. It however has a taken party for German.

5 Assessement of the project

  • Qualitatively: the teacher makes a feedback in classroom some with the students to collect their observations and what they could feel in the skin of their character. Afterwards, while the teacher passes a music of time, students must write a page on what they have just lived and they have to insist on human dimension. The teacher holds account of the remarks that it finds there to feed the contents of the talk which it makes in conclusion of the period of the Nazism.
  • Summarily: students pass an examination with multiple choices questions, no-claims bonus questions and questions to develop.

6 Layout of the project

Because the type of project, the exercise even of this project in fact its finality. After four years of experiments and improvements, the project is now known in the school, and its impacts are many and varied. Students took part in emissions of radio and a travel to the Memorial of the Holocaust where they met a survivor of that time. Some students were put in the search of documentation additional or materials (flags, plastic weapons). An exposure is considered. The teacher considers a play, played by the pupils on the lawsuit of Nuremberg.

It thus appears that this project is a winning formula to motivate the students with history, but also concerning the length and the pregnancy of their learning of the period concerned.

7 References

Proulx, J. (2004). Apprentissage par projet. Presses de l'université du québec