S.F. Teachers Praise Genocide Curriculum At Bay Area ANC Education Workshop

SAN FRANCISCO–San Francisco 10th grade public school teachers expressed praise and excitement for the just-completed Armenian Genocide lesson plans created by teachers Nancy Kaufman and Anna Slavicek. The lesson plans were presented at a workshop organized by the SFUSD Curriculum Improvement and Professional Development office and the Bay Area Armenian National Committee at San Francisco’s Vaspouragan Hall.

"I think the whole thing was wonderful and I encourage people to use the whole curriculum," said one teacher–echoing the sentimen’s of the overwhelming majority of the 14 teachers in attendance.

Although the Armenian Genocide is included in both California and San Francisco Unified School District standards for Modern World History–many teachers are not familiar enough with the events to teach them well. Culminating more than two years of work with the San Francisco school district–the Bay Area ANC unveiled its Armenian Genocide lesson plans at a workshop designed to provide a historical context–discuss themes that connect the Armenian Genocide to other events in world history–and to provide teachers new curriculum on the topic written by SFUSD teachers.

The flexible lesson plans include three interlocking parts–designed to allow teachers the possibility of using the short first section (1-2 days)–or combine the first two sections (5 days)–or use the entire course (10 days). The unit is aligned with the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools–meeting many of the standards set forth in the Framework. The lessons also specifically deal with the section of the Framework stating–"…students should learn of the Ottoman government’s planned mass deportation and systematic annihilation of Armenian citizens in 1915. Students should also examine the reactions of other governmen’s and world opinion during and after this genocide and the effects on the remaining Armenian population." The unit also lays a foundation which will help students understand subsequent lessons about Nazi Germany and the causes and consequences of World War II.

Pete Hammer–who leads SFUSD’s history curriculum development department–led the workshop–describing how the Bay Area ANC initiated a relationship with his department–which eventually led to the formulation of the lesson plans. Jack Weinstein–Bay Area Director of Facing History and Ourselves–also addressed teachers with an overview of the educational context in which study of the Armenian Genocide is important and effective for students. He played a news story about the Armenian Genocide which aired last year on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings–and led a discussion with the teachers about their knowledge of the Genocide.

Teachers attending the workshop were enthusiastic about the large visual "timeline" Kaufman and Slavicek presented–which enabled students to grasp the historical context in which the Armenian Genocide occurred and the parallel economic and political developmen’s occurring at that time. Teachers also highly praised the "simulation" students conduct in Part III of the lessons–during which–under close supervision by teachers–they take on the roles of various groups in society involved in the Armenian Genocide.

Yeran Garabedian–principal at Krouzian–Zekarian Vaspouragan Armenian School said she was impressed with the level of depth covered in the curriculum–and hoped this kind of Armenian Genocide curriculum could also be carried out in Armenian schools across the country.

Teachers spoke highly of the impact of the final phase of the presentation–during which Kaufman read moving excerpts from Ambassador Henry Morganthau’s Story–while burning a candle and playing traditional Armenian duduk music in the background.

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