Students in Perrysburg High School's new humanities class, which combines American history and English, researched commonly held perceptions and their realities for their second community humanities night last week.
The students brainstormed and came up with about 50 ideas for projects, including interviewing Holocaust survivors, studying the effectiveness of fad diets, and looking into the safety of the popular Web site MySpace.com, English teacher Amy Hochanadel said.
The humanities night drew 300 community members to hear a presentation by Holocaust survivor Sam Pruchno of Southfield, Mich., and to see presentations by the 36 students in the class.
Last Thursday the group that interviewed Holocaust survivors showed the video they made to classmates.
The 18-minute video, which Patrick Griffith, Frank Lockom, and Kyle Lock created from 2 1/2 hours of footage, consisted of interviews with three survivors and students at the high school and junior high.
The group traveled to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan to ask survivors what they thought needed to be done to stop it from happening again. One woman, Irene Miller, said people need to get over prejudice and see others as individuals.
The students also questioned others at the high school and junior high about the Holocaust. When asked how many Jews were killed, most said "a lot"; a few said 6 million. Many didn't know that the Nazis also targeted homosexuals, Gypsies, and other minority groups.
"We think many people don't know," Frank said. "It's important, with the stuff that's going on in Africa."
Next year the number of students taking the class is expected to nearly triple, from 36 to 97.
Principal Michael Short said that combining the subjects instead of teaching them in isolation makes it easier for students to grasp the connections between them.
"If they're being taught in a manner where the two are being blended together, you get it a bit more," Mr. Short said.
The teachers involved in the first class said they had to be flexible and open to new ways of learning. "We had to adjust it as we went," history teacher Terri Camp said.
The three teachers have received help from the University of Toledo's Humanities 2000 program and a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Humanities Council, which Mrs. Camp said usually gives grants to universities. It has started a grant program for secondary schools.
The students who studied MySpace said they wanted to compare the perception that it's a safe place for teenagers with the reality that it can lead to trouble if teenagers give out too much information. "People are getting hurt," Kristen Schwabel said.
Lauren Moreau said they looked at profiles on MySpace that had personal data such as last names, names of schools, and hometowns that could be used by someone with malicious intent. She and Kristen acknowledged that they list some of that information in their own profiles.
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