The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

WHS introduces new elective: Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Jan. 31 marked both the beginning of second semester and the introduction of a new half-year, dual enrollment social studies elective entitled Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The course is available to all 10th-12th graders and gives students the opportunity to “take a scholarly approach to understanding what genocide is” and “understand why the issue of genocide continues to happen today,” according to Social Studies Teacher Kimberly Leegan, who is teaching the course this semester.

Last year, a group of social studies teachers gathered to establish the framework for a potential new course centering on the Holocaust that looks deeper into the issue of genocide beyond the topic’s basic exploration in global perspectives and humanities classes at WHS. Their goal was to create a new course dedicated exclusively to the Holocaust and its impact following noteworthy remarks of interest from the community.

“We started by looking at curriculum from other schools in the area that have run similar classes and then worked very closely with Kean University Holocaust Resource Center,” said Leegan. “It has tremendous support from our administration, the BOE and the larger community.”

The course will focus on several genocides in history, including the Armenian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide, as a way to contextualize, analyze and evaluate the causes and effects of the Holocaust. Then, in the final unit, students will conduct extensive primary source research regarding a different example of genocide in history, take a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and brainstorm action-based steps toward spreading awareness about genocide. The course will conclude with a “performance based” final exam where students can present their findings, as stated on the official curriculum document.

A significant aspect of the course is the potential for WHS students to earn dual enrollment credit, where students earn both high school and college credits simultaneously. What sets Holocaust and Genocide Studies apart from other social studies electives and makes it a candidate for dual enrollment is its scope—the course goes beyond “what is required legislatively” of Holocaust education in New Jersey, Leegan explained.

Thus, as she and the team of teachers utilized research from the KUHRC, they relied on the university’s approval of their curriculum and qualified the course for dual enrollment credits. Any student choosing to pursue the credit must also pay a $300 fee to KU to compensate for the credit, as stated in the WHS Program of Studies.

Senior Emily Spirn is enrolled in the course this semester, but is not taking it for dual enrollment credit. Spirn said, “I decided to take the class because we never really got deep into the topic in other history classes and I’m very interested in it because of my heritage.”

Similarly, Leegan is most excited to work with students and help them “figure out they can be a change agent and prevent things like this from happening again.”

In a time of ongoing crises around the world with heightened discourse about genocide, the course hopes to immerse students into a new perspective through educative and experiential measures.

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