It can be all too easy to forget that The Diary of a Young Girl – which has inspired world leaders from John F. Kennedy Jr. to Nelson Mandela – was written by a child, a young teenager just starting to get her bearings on the world. Its impact on all ages is undeniable – and yet it remains an especially useful tool for teaching children about WWII and the Holocaust. Not only does The Diary offer an accessible and relatable entry point to these subjects, Anne herself serves as a role model, reminding young readers that children are capable of amazing things.
The Anne Frank Center USA offers three kinds of programming for NYC-area school groups: field trips to our Center, artist-in-residence programs and one-day workshops in schools, and live performances presented either at our Center or in schools or community based organizations.
In 2014, we increased school group visits to our Center by 78% over 2013, serving 1,438 young people in grades 3-12. Our four field trip options challenge students to consider the consequences of prejudice and intolerance, while offering insight into Anne as a writer, resister, and child of history. This year we revised the Anne Frank: Then and Now program to encourage a deeper learning experience. The program now engages students in an interactive discussion and workshop about prejudice as a key factor during Anne’s life, across history, and today. Now our most popular field trip, the Then and Now program can be tailored to all grade levels, and asks students to examine the choices we face when confronted with intolerance.
Our artist-in-residence programs continued to flourish in 2014, serving 461 students at three schools. We completed our fifth year of The Art of Self-Discovery with 3rd-5th graders at PS 43 in the Bronx; piloted our Art and Propaganda program with 8th graders at IS 276 in Manhattan; and thanks to generous funding from NYSCA, launched a 16-week residency focused on identity and social justice with 10th graders at Veritas Academy, a new public high school in Queens. Beyond visual art in the classroom, we have developed curriculum for a new drama-based artist-in-residence program that uses role-playing and improvisation as tools to tackle intolerance in our communities. Portions of this program were implemented through one-day workshops presented at the Mary McDowell Friends School in Brooklyn, in conjunction with the presentation of our live performance piece Letters from Anne and Martin.
Through vendor fairs, the growth of our e-mail marketing list of educators, a successful Educator Open House in September, and face-to-face visits with neighborhood schools, we are expanding our reach to promote our education programs to schools throughout the region.
While using the highest academic standards, our school programs go beyond the normal classroom experience with its diminishing budgets and standardized approach. They teach children about the world around them – facts and figures, but also the necessity of having empathy, courage, and respect for others. Given the range of hostilities worldwide, particularly surrounding religion, students today will face many challenges – but ours will be better equipped to handle them.