How did one teacher and four seniors at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood, Minnesota answer the US Holocaust Museum’s call to go “From Memory to Action”? This is their History Unfolded story.
It Starts With A Talented Teacher
Katie Murr has been teaching middle school and high school social studies for thirteen years. She currently teaches social studies and coaches debate at Mounds Park Academy in Maplewood, Minnesota. As a part of her junior U.S. History course, Ms. Murr has students examine what the United States knew with regard to the Holocaust, and the actions it did and did not take in response to that knowledge. She used the resources on the History Unfolded website this past year as part of her lessons for her juniors. In addition, four seniors, Eloise Berdahl-Baldwin, Maija Olson, Bennett Winga, and Ben George, used History Unfolded for an unconventional, yet highly successful senior service project.
Why History Unfolded?
Ms. Murr found out about History Unfolded in spring 2016. She took an immediate interest in it. The project helped her fulfill objectives to give students a deeper understanding of the Holocaust from an American perspective. By working with primary sources, students would be forced to wrestle with questions such as “Was the US shutting its eyes to the atrocities abroad?” “At what point did the US know about the Holocaust?” and “Why would the US not take in more refugees?” In particular, Ms. Murr was excited to have her students help the Museum investigate what information was available to Minnesotans about the Holocaust as it occurred.
Going The Extra Mile
While juniors at Mounds Park Academy in social studies courses concentrate on US history, seniors spend much of their time learning about the political process and civic engagement. Eloise, Maija, Bennett, and Ben decided that History Unfolded would make a good senior service project. They perused and uploaded new article content from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Minneapolis Journal, major newspapers near Maplewood. They also investigated publications from cities across the state, including the Rochester Post-Bulletin (in northwest Minnesota near Fargo) and the Moorhead Daily News (in southeast Minnesota.)
Since the city of Duluth, Minnesota had a large Jewish population during the 1930’s and 1940’s, a few of the seniors even embarked upon an incredible journey 150 miles north to investigate newspapers published in the city on the shore of Lake Superior. While in Duluth, students performed research using microfilm readers and uploaded articles from the Duluth News-Tribune and the Duluth Herald.
Ms. Murr’s group of senior researchers found over 75 articles. The intensive statewide research of students from Mounds Park Academy has provided anyone who comes to the History Unfolded website with new opportunities to compare reporting from across the North Star State.
For example, researchers can now use data from History Unfolded to compare newspaper headlines from several newspapers published in Minnesota during Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938 to examine choices that editorial staff made. Was there a story about Kristallnacht on the front page? If so, where on the page was the story? What headline and sub-headlines did the newspaper staff write? See the front pages of the November 10, 1938 issues of the Duluth Herald, Moorhead Daily News and Rochester Post-Bulletin below.
As the History Unfolded database grows, more and more educators across the country will be able to engage their students in this kind of comparative analysis, fostering class discussions about the nature and nuances of newspaper reporting during the time of the Holocaust.
Senioritis? Perhaps Not
The four seniors also chose to move beyond simply uploading new article content to the History Unfolded website. Seeing important connections between the Syrian refugee crisis of today and the Jewish refugee crisis of the 1930’s and 1940’s, the students created a website called “Jewish and Syrian Refugee Crises.” The four civic-minded students presented their findings to the entire school community and plan to share it with Minnesota’s senators and representatives.
Joining Them In the Effort
A cornerstone of the Museum’s mission is to encourage individuals to reflect upon their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy. Bennett, Ben, Maija and Eloise appear to have done just that, demonstrating that the actions of individuals do indeed matter. We thank Katie Murr and all of her students for their work. We hope that many more teachers, students, and history enthusiasts across the country will continue their work.
See our “For Educators” page for our teacher lesson plan, handouts, and other ideas for how to implement History Unfolded in your community.