Dr. Ruth Shares Message of Strength, Inclusion with New York City Second Graders

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 11:14am

A group of 30 second-grade children in New York City took part in a Tour for Tolerance event earlier this month that featured a virtual read-along given by famed broadcaster and Holocaust survivor Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Delivered virtually to students at the Glenn Morris School (PS100) in Queens, New York, the program was a pilot initiative of Tour for Tolerance and USC Shoah Foundation.

As part of the program, Dr. Ruth read from Crocodile, You’re Beautiful: Embracing Our Strengths and Ourselves, her book that depicts her interactions with an assortment of animals and spreads the message that everyone’s unique body has its own strengths.

After the read-along, the students were shown a clip of Visual History Archive testimony in which Dr. Ruth describes her childhood experience on the Kindertransport and her subsequent coming of age.

Tailored to meet New York City’s Covid restrictions, the program was designed to test how the lesson content resonated with diverse students.

Lesly Culp, Head of Programs, Education, at USC Shoah Foundation said the teaching exercise is an opportunity to reach younger audiences in both age-appropriate and meaningful ways.

"In the current context of increasing antisemitism, hate, violence and disenfranchisement of vulnerable and at-risk student populations, the Tour for Tolerance program provides primary school learners with immersive learning experiences grounded in the human story, delivered through cutting-edge digital technologies and guided by academic standards and student-centered active learning principles."

Amy Strauss, a PS100Q teacher who taught the class, said the read-along and accompanying lessons were well received.

“[My students] enjoyed learning about [Dr. Ruth’s] life and, even at a young age, they learned that everyone is beautiful no matter what they look like."

USC Shoah Foundation and the Tour for Tolerance formed a partnership in August 2020 with a shared vision of bringing the power of testimony and immersive, student-centered learning to students through a mobile learning lab.

The goal of the Tour for Tolerance partnership is to instill in students the ability to accept, respect, and appreciate others. The lesson plans were designed to help the children develop “abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts.” By the end of the lesson, the children should be able to “recognize the importance of acceptance, respect, and appreciation of self and others.”

Once Covid restrictions are lifted, the Tour for Tolerance single classrooms of students will board a full-size coach bus which has been retrofitted to accommodate a variety of multimedia assets which will bring an inspiring, grade appropriate, interactive tolerance exhibit to middle and high school students across New York City.