This project is based on the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” which I bought when I was travelling through the Czech Republic years ago.
“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.
The title of the book is from the following poem by young Jewish poet Pavel Friedmann.
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.
So I started by showing the book and some images from it to my Grade 4-6 students. It's a mixed grade level class. We made large scale butterflies using wax resist and watercolours.
Using texture plates, students made was crayon rubbings using thin drawing paper, 12 x 18".
Once the paper was covered, they painted over it using liquid watercolours.
Once dry, students folded their paper in half and drew half a butterfly and cut it out.
Using black oil pastels, students coloured in the line patterns of a monarch butterfly.
The, using white acrylic paint, they added the monarch's trademark dot markings.
Finally, they cut out a body from cereal box, coloured it with oil pastels and glued it onto the wings.
They used white thin wire to create the antennae and hot glued those on the back of the head.