Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Museum of Tolerance

Yesterday was the first day of blogging that I have missed in a few months!  I had a good reason.  I was on a field trip to Los Angeles with 49 7th and 8th graders to visit the Museum of Tolerance.

It was amazing!

It was informative.

It was under heavy security protocols and no pictures were allowed.

These were pretty much the only two pictures I took!  I's a terrible thing not to have documented my whole day.  But I was a little more worried about keeping 49 junior high kids alive than I was about pictures.  And yes, that was my breakfast at 4:30 a.m.  I needed something to put a little pep in my step.  And we were still smiling on the ride home, despite the exhaustion levels settling in.

Anyhow, I woke up at 2:30 a.m.  Yes....2:30.  I left the house at 3:20 and we were on the bus and rolling at 4 a.m.

My partner teacher and I tried to sleep, but there were several really awake and chatty girls sitting right by us.  I think I dozed a bit.  We also had a giant double decker bus that was pretty awesome.  I sat on the bottom.

Once we arrived in Los Angeles at the museum, a guide met us and explained that the museum was under heightened security because of elections in Israel.  There wasn't any danger where we were, but whenever security measures increase at any of their sites, they go up for all of the sites.  That meant the kids were not allowed to bring in back packs or cell phones.  They were sort of lost without their phones.  It was a good thing!

The museum was phenomenal.  While there was a definite emphasis on the Jewish Holocaust, there were also various exhibits focusing on personal responsibility, prejudice and other issues of hate crimes and intolerance around the world.

I was mesmerized the entire trip.  Many of the kids said it was sad, and while this is true, it was also a museum that focused on hope and change.  I am excited for my own kids to get a bit older so I can take them.  My 10-year-old is pretty mature, but I think he is still too young to tour this particular museum.  I have had talks with him about WWII and the Holocaust, but we talk about it at his level.  In my opinion, this museum is geared more towards junior high aged and older students.

There was this winding walkway that you took to the various exhibits.  The walls were lined with survivors from the Holocaust.  It's hard to even imagine.  I also kept thinking that we are coming upon a time where the survivors are not going to be alive to tell their stories in person any longer.  Thank goodness for museums such as this that honor the stories of the survivors and the dead.

One really neat exhibit had us sitting in a replica of a 50's diner.  We watched a "news" video of a teenage boy that was drunk driving.  He got into an accident and killed himself and a child in another car.  The objective of the video was to get the kids thinking about who was responsible for this incident: the boy who drank and drove, the girlfriend who bought the alcohol for him, the mother who ignored her son's drinking problem, or the store owner who sold the alcohol to minors.

We were able to listen to each person's point of view to see if it changed our minds as to who was at fault.  While I think all of the above listed had a part in the incident, I always will fall back on personal responsibility.  We all make choices that affect not just ourselves but others as well.

After the morning tour, we jumped on the bus and had lunch in a park.  Then we headed back to the museum for a special tour about Anne Frank's life.  It was wonderful.  The tour guide gave us lots of information, and the videos were interesting and riveting.

This was at the end of the tour.  All of those colored pieces on the wall are actually clothing.  Each piece of clothing represented 90,000 Jews that were killed under Hitler's regime.  There were thousands of pieces of clothing on the wall.  The visual was stunning.  They also arranged them so that the colors of the clothes were vibrant and bright at first, symbolizing Anne's happy childhood.  As you went along in the exhibit, the clothes became darker and dingier, symbolizing the sadness and despair that the family endured.

I would love to go back to this museum.  It is the type of place where you can learn something new each time you go.  You would pick up on a new piece of information that you may not have heard before.

Oh, one more thing...Anne Frank's cousin was very close to her as a child.  There was a video of him talking about their childhood.  He died LAST TUESDAY.  Such a strange thing to think that this man who was connected to her only just died.

And one more thing!  We got little cards with the picture of a child during that time in history.  Along the exhibit, we would slide the card into a computer to find out about our person.  Some of the kids were killed in concentration camps.  Some kids lived.  One of my girls in the class was freaking out because the child on her card had the same birthday as her!  I told her it just goes to show how real the children were.  They lived, had birthdays, had lives...just like us.

The kids and I learned so much at this museum.  We are exhausted.  Today was not easy to get through.  I don't think I yelled at anyone for having their head down on their desk!

One more small trip next week to the Chrism Mass and then the BIG one to the Reagan Museum and Disneyland.  Man oh man this year is flying by fast!

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