The Butterfly Project’s Education Team

The Butterfly Project’s Education Team

A Special Thank You to Our Education Team

By Cheryl Rattner Price, Executive Director & Co-Founder
The Butterfly Project has many champions without whom this work would not be possible. But amongst all of our supporters, we want to take time this month to recognize a special group of women who stand out for all of their hard work, dedication, and tireless commitment to sharing The Butterfly Project’s message with students across the country.

Sonia Fox-Ohlbaum shows her father’s uniform from a concentration camp.

The Education Team

The Butterfly Project’s Education Team, made up of Co-Founder Jan Landau, Sonia Fox-Ohlbaum, Judi Gottschalk, and Arlene Keeyes, is a passionate group of retired educators who meet weekly to discuss, write and plan lessons and curriculum that enhance the The Butterfly Project classroom experience. Several team members are children of Holocaust Survivors and bring their parents’ personal stories and artifacts such as family photographs, a yellow star, and an even concentration camp uniform, into the classroom while presenting lessons.

The Education Team’s goal this year was to teach in as many San Diego based schools as possible. Due to an upswing in bullying and anti-Semitic incidents on school campuses, there was been an increased demand for The Butterfly Project’s experiential lessons this school year. The Education Team responded to these demands in a powerful way, designing appropriate lessons geared to each grade level and using each of their unique voices and experiences to take on certain segments of the lesson plan.

Co-Founder Jan Landau teaching students lessons from the Holocaust.

Inside the Classroom

The Education Team presented in 45 classrooms in San Diego-based schools in the 2016-2017 school year. School districts that participated in The Butterfly Project in 2016-2017 include: Lakeside Union School District; Santee School District; San Diego Unified School District; Cajon Valley Union School District; Hebrew Academy, Huntington Beach; Beth El; San Diego Jewish Academy.

Gompers Preparatory Academy, a Charter School in San Diego Unified that has partnered with UCSD, was a unique experience for the team. In Sonia’s words…

“Arlene and I had the incredible pleasure of teaching 5 classes about the Holocaust to Gompers Preparatory Academy. Never in all of our years of presenting did we have such a welcome. The hallways had hanging butterfly mobiles, doors had welcome signs and walls were covered in posters students had created for their Holocaust Projects. At the invitation of Mary Davis, all 8th graders had the opportunity to meet with us so we could share our primary source materials and our lessons.

As each student painted a butterfly, they went around the room and stood with pride, as they became the voice of a child that perished in the Holocaust. On their table was a centerpiece that a group of students had created. One was a gas chamber, another a concentration camp, an old fashioned camera, and a replica of a sculpture called the Shoes on the Danube River.

We have already agreed to return next year and will continue to make this an annual event.”

Arlene Keeyes teaches students the difference between being an upstander and being a bystander.

The Education Team also visited students at DePortola Middle School in San Diego. Parent Sandra Bever wrote an article for the Tierra Times about the profound impact our Education Team made on students at the school (click on images to read article).

Outside the Classroom

The Education Team has been busy outside of the classroom, as well. In addition to school visits, the Education team has focused on writing K-5 curriculum that is aligned with the Common Core Standards and grade specific. This curriculum articulates and spirals upwards and builds on various themes. These themes include:

The Education Team also had an exhibit booth at the California Social Studies Conference in Sacramento in May, which led to an invitation to present at the National Social Studies Conference in November. So much excitement and involvement in the project was generated after the California conference, and we expect that level of enthusiasm to only grow after the national conference. The Education Team also made presentations to adult groups this year, including San Diego’s Jewish Family Service and various synagogue groups in San Diego.

Praise for the Education Team

One indisputable fact evidencing their amazing work is the feedback we receive. Here are just a few quotes we’ve received from both teachers and students after the Education Team has visited a classroom:

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“I believe it was the pictures and stories of the children that make it all ”real” to my students. Saying their names and reading their stories brought a depth of connection and that would not have occurred other wise.” – Carrie Butler, 3rd grade public school teacher

“Mrs. Keeyes and Mrs. Landau brought a very painful and horrific era in history to the forefront in a way that was powerful to the students. Seeing the clothing worn in the concentration camps, seeing the 6 pointed ‘Jude’ in person had powerful visual impact. Hearing Arlene Keeyes sweet voice read Eve Bunting’s book about the Holocaust helped the students empathize with the Jewish children. However, I believe it was the pictures and stories of the children (on the bio / picture cards) that made it all ‘real’ to my students. Saying their names, reading their stories brought a depth of connection that would not have occurred otherwise. Painting the butterflies was beautiful and cathartic for my students. Having a beautiful way to demonstrate respect for these precious lives empowered them to remember the delicate lives that were lost.” – Anonymous*

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“I pledge to be an upstander by defending what is right and speaking up for people who can’t. I will not stand by and watch. Like Theodore Roosevelt said, “ Knowing what is right doesn’t mean much unless you do what is right.” – Student at DePortolo Elementary School

“The generosity of the presenters who shared their personal artifacts touched us all. They will make us never forget.” – Anonymous*

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“Arlene Keeyes, Sonia Fox-Ohlbaum, and Jan Landau changed my life. Three retired teachers taught me to be a better person (a better Jew) and gave me an understanding of the Holocaust I never imagined. I am 63 years young. Thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate what your organization does and one day somewhere I will see one of the ceramic butterflies and know what they mean. For that my heartfelt gratitude.” – Don Y., Laguna Niguel, CA

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“When I had my students write year end reflections many listed the butterfly project as their favorite activity all year in art class. The presentation was VERY well done because the way the subject matter was handled was really age appropriate.” – Anonymous*


A Heartfelt Thank You

While it goes without saying that The Butterfly Project is incredibly appreciative of the dedication and commitment that the Education Team continues to display, it is important that we take a moment to shine the spotlight on these incredible women. It is important that we not just honor them for their hard work, but acknowledge the unique talents each one brings to her work with The Butterfly Project. To the women of the Education Team, I want to say thank you… you have made The Butterfly Project an unparalleled classroom experience and for that we are forever grateful.

*The Butterfly Project collects feedback through an anonymous survey after each classroom visit. These testimonials were taken from that survey.