Elementary schools in Montreal’s West Island area are observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day thanks to four Grade 6 students at Margaret Manson Elementary in Kirkland, Que.
It started off as a small idea among four Jewish Grade 6 students who wanted to not only learn more about their history but teach others as well.
“My sister was researching about the Holocaust and she found out that Jan. 27 is Holocaust Remembrance Day,” said student Natasha Butler.
“She told our French teacher and she said ‘you guys should do an assembly,’ and then we just went with that idea,” she added.
The team of four approached their principal who helped them get the idea off the ground.
“They wanted to write a letter to the school board asking all of the schools in Lester B. Pearson to acknowledge this very important day by wearing a paperclip and having a moment of silence,” said Margaret Manson Elementary School Principal Sue Larivière.
The paperclip played an important role in the Second World War – it represented sticking together until the Nazis caught on and banned them.
“It was a really devastating time in history and we want to make sure that everyone knows what happened and we want to promote a kinder future,” said student Alexandra Butler.
Because the Holocaust is a sensitive subject, the school decided the girls could present a slide show to Grade 4, 5 and 6 students and come up with other ideas for younger children.
“We read a book about kindness for (lower grades) and we made a little craft with them,” said student Amelia Altmann. “They cut out hearts and today they are getting a paperclip and they are going to put it on their shirt,” she added.
Teachers helped but say it was really the four students who put everything together.
“We guided them and they went off with it and did their own thing,” said Grade 6 teacher Lucy Ferracane.
“We’re happy to be able to honour the day because of these students,” added Grade 6 teacher Melissa Dykeman.
All four students are graduating this year, but they’re hoping their legacy will live on.
“We’re hoping that this can become an annual thing at our school,” said Natasha Butler.
“Every year they will have an assembly and every year the kids can learn more and more and more until they get to Grade 6 and they can actually run it themselves,” she added.
Most importantly, the girls say, they learned a lot and hope others did as well.