Barrie students learning about tolerance
Daniella Lurion, an education associate with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, speaks to students on the center's Tour for Humanity bus, which is coming to a Barrie school next month. SUBMITTED
Youngsters at a Barrie elementary school will soon be getting a special lesson about diversity and democracy, as well as civic rights and responsibilities.
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School students will be getting a first-hand look next month at the Tour for Humanity bus, a mobile human rights education centre created by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) for Holocaust Studies.
Since its launch in 2013, the bus has visited more than 400 schools across Ontario and provided lessons on tolerance, human rights and justice to 100,000 students and educators.
FSWC education associate Daniella Lurion said the 50-foot long bus features a giant video wall on one side, while students sit on the other side watching a combination of a Power Point presentation and video.
There is also lots of discussion and a chance for students to ask questions.
“It’s our goal to educate and inform them about the dangers of intolerance around antisemitism and racism but it’s also about bullying,” Lurion said. “The history of Canada is not spotless. We’ve dealt with things like residential school, Japanese-Canadian internment camps.”
Kids are more aware than ever before, she added.
“We’ve had kids in Grades 4 and 5 asking questions about Donald Trump and people being deported, what’s happened in Canada and how we are different and even ISIS,” Lurion said. “That’s why it’s important now, with everything happening in the world like the rise of extremism and right-wing and white supremacy groups, to have younger students understand the dangers of how quickly that can escalate.”
Tour for Humanity staff are on hand to answer questions students may have, she added.
“The goal is that maybe these kids will change the world one day. But on a smaller scale, it’s that they will question something,” Lurion said, adding some questions may be innocent while others may be more complicated..
“We’re saying, ‘Yes, bad things are happening, but what can you do about it?’,” she said. “How do you not just be the bystander that watches it but actively does something about it?”
St. Michael the Archangel staff member Michele Stong said the Tour for Humanity is going to teach students about social justice.
“It’s trying to empower them to take action against things that are wrong in the world,” she said. “When it comes to the younger students between Grades 3 and 6, they’re going to talk more globally and about topics like stereotypes, and racism and bullying and those types of things.
“I think it’s important because these issues are still persistent in society.”
Stong said she hopes the tour’s information will resonate with the kids.
“I hope they become sensitive to the plight of others,” she added. “While these kids are in school we can teach them about values and characteristics that we want them to have. It’s by bringing in programs like this that we can help sensitize them to it.”
Lurion said that’s what Tour for Humanity is all about.
“The students are interested and engaged. It’s a new environment and like a field trip,” she said. “They get to leave their classroom and that makes a big difference from an educational point of view.”
The Tour for Humanity comes for an entire day to two schools in Barrie: Oct. 27 at Monsignor Clair Catholic Elementary School in Barrie followed by St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School on Dec. 12.