The Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies for a memorial to remember each of the children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for Spring 2014. The Museum has already collected an estimated 900,000 butterflies. I originally participated in this with a Grade 7 class about 3 years ago when the project was first announced. Each student made their own individualized butterfly which was mailed to the museum. I checked the museum website a few days ago to see when the exhibit was and saw that it's still in progress, so thought I would post about it.
In order to facilitate the butterfly project, the museum website has some lesson plans and activities you can follow. The main lesson is based on the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942–1944”. During the completion of this project, students will learn about the experience of young children during the Holocaust through a study of the poems and pictures drawn by those imprisoned in Terezin. They will create handmade butterflies to represent the children who were imprisoned.
“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” is a heartbreaking and beautiful collection of works of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Terezin, outside of Prague. Between the years 1942-1944, about 15,000 children under the age of 15 were incarcerated at various times. Of these, more than 90 percent perished during the Holocaust; fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates, we see the daily misery of these uprooted children, as well as their hopes and fears, their courage and optimism. Where known, the fate of each young author is listed; however, most died prior to the camp being liberated.
Below are some photos I took from the inside of the book showing some of the children's art. Most of the art was done on scrap paper, wrapping paper, the backs of office paper, etc.
Many of the artwork and poems deal with the idea of 'home' and they are very effective in conveying the desperate need of these children for the comfort of home.
This poem, by Pavel Friedman, inspired the Butterfly Project.
Reading this book, I was stunned at the talents of these young children, considering the circumstances they were in. At the same time you feel a horrible sense of sadness for these children, most of whom were transported to and died in Auschwitz.
The Terezin concentration camp was unusual in that it housed a large proportion of artists, teachers and intellectuals. Thanks to the great number of teachers and artists in this camp, children continued to gain access to art supplies and were given an outlet to vent their creativity and frustration.
One of these teachers was a remarkable woman: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. A former student of the Bauhaus in Weimar, she was an accomplished artist and designer. When she was ordered to Terezin in December 1942, she conceived a mission for herself and brought what art materials she could to camp. She helped to organize secret art education classes for the children of Terezín. She saw drawing and art as a way for the children to understand their emotions and their environment. In this capacity she was giving art therapy. Drawing on her Bauhaus experience and available supplies – her hoarded materials, office forms, scrap paper, cardboard, wrapping paper- she provided excellent training in art fundamentals, studies of everyday objects, complex still lifes, all the while freeing her students to reveal their feelings through their art.
In September 1944, Friedl was transported to Auschwitz; but before she was taken away, she gave a fellow prisoner two suitcases filled with 4,500 drawings done by the children. She died in Birkenau on October 9, 1944. After the war, a survivor brought the suitcases with children's drawings to the Jewish Community in Prague. The drawings are now in the Jewish Museum in Prague's collection. Source 1. Source 2. Source 3.
Like I mentioned earlier, I did this project some time ago with a Grade 7 class. I specifically chose that class because they were very mature, creative and worked well together, so I knew they could handle the subject matter and get quite a bit out of the whole project. It was sooooo quiet in class while we were working on this- the atmosphere was really quite sombre, which felt so strange as my art room is usually full of lighthearted chatting and joking around. I shared with the class some of the poems and then we looked at the artwork together and had a really good class discussion on the topic. Then each student made their own butterfly using whatever materials they wished (make sure to refer to the guidelines on the website, as there are material and size restrictions).
I encourage you to consider how you might be a part of this wonderful project. The exhibit is scheduled for the Spring of 2013 and they are apparently still accepting butterflies through 2012.
Here’s the link: http://hmh.org/ed_butterfly1.shtml
In the theme of butterflies, here's a wax-resist rubbing project I have done with elementary classes that you might like to try out. I modified it from a project I found in the Usborne book: "Playtime Activities". It's an excellent project to discuss the element of 'texture' with younger students.
Using scrap card (we used cereal boxes), cut a whole bunch of small pieces.
Fold a piece of regular printer/copy paper in half.
Glue the card pieces onto one side with white glue. Fill the whole side completely.
Then fold the paper back together so the clean side is on top of the card side. Use the side of a wax crayon and, pressing HARD, rub it all over to reveal the pattern below. Really emphasize to the students to press hard, otherwise this technique doesn't work so well.
Then cut the paper apart. You can re-use the card paper to do multiple rubbings in different colours, or students can swap papers to get a varety of patterns.
Now, do a wash of watercolours overtop. Mix colours, do one colour only, whatever they want. I found that dark colours over light wax crayons looks the best, imo. The waxed areas will resist the paint and the paint will only stick where the white paper remains. Kids love this part!
Once this paper is dry, fold the sheet in half, draw half a butterfly, cut it out and unfold. Students then cut out bodies and antennae from scraps of painted paper and glued those on. I give students a handout showing a variety of butterflies so they can see and be inspired by all the different types. I also had them practice drawing and cutting out different butterfly shapes from scrap paper so they could choose their favourite one.
Afterwards, students can experiment with different wax rubbings from objects around the classroom/school. The one below was done on a piece of rough plywood.