An Inside Look at Planning the Miryam Brand Holocaust Education Film Project

By Lisa Rimmert, Director of Marketing, and Deanne Kapnik, Director of Special Events & Projects

The Mizel Museum recently hosted one of its annual Holocaust education programs, the Miryam Brand Holocaust Education Film Project. Partnering with seven area schools as well as Regis University, the Museum was able to bring Holocaust education – in the form of a short film and an engaging educator – to more than 1,700 students over three days.

Illustration by Petr Ginz - From the film, The Last Flight of Petr Ginz

Illustration by Petr Ginz – From the film, The Last Flight of Petr Ginz

As you can imagine, such a large and complex event requires a great deal of planning. That’s where our director of special events and projects, Deanne Kapnik, comes in. In this post, we will give you an inside look at how Deanne chooses the films, which schools she works with and what prestigious award her program won this year.

But first, a little background on the Miryam Brand program:

Miryam Brand was a Holocaust survivor and a dedicated volunteer at the Mizel Museum who devoted much of her passion and energy to education.  In her memory, her family has provided the Mizel Museum with funding for the Miryam Brand Holocaust Education Film Project, an annual program now going into its seventh year, which educates middle and high school students about the history of the Holocaust and its lessons that are still relevant in their lives.

Now, onto how the program is planned:

Choosing the Film

Though Deanne is always on the lookout, the formal quest for the “right” film starts at the end of the previous year. Several criteria and guidelines are used:

  1. “The Mizel Museum is an art museum,” Deanne said. “So we look for films that are themselves art pieces.”
  2. The content of the film should be educational, engaging and appropriate for young people.
  3. Ideally, the film should be 30 -55 minutes in length, so the program (with the film and a question and answer period) will be between 75 minutes and 1.5 hours.
  4. It’s best if supplementary education materials are available, such as curriculum guides. This allows us to provide the participating schools with materials to use before and after the film is shown.

To find potential films, Deanne relies on suggestions from colleagues in Holocaust education, as well as other sources including the Internet. Once Deanne selects a few potential films, a committee of staff members and colleagues pre-screen the films and come to an agreement on the best one for the program. Teachers may also pre-screen the film via DVD or link made available by the Museum.

This year’s film, The Last Flight of Petr Ginz, was recommended to Deanne by a local Holocaust educator. “Dr. Mark Thorsen is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Fellow  with a deep interest in the subject,” said Deanne. “He has even written about teaching genocide through the arts, which is precisely what the Miryam Brand program aims to do.” The committee and Deanne agreed The Last Flight of Petr Ginz would be an exceptional film to share with students, so Deanne contacted filmmaker Sandra Dickson, a documentarian at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who connected her with the film and its distributor.

Working with an Educator

Ms. Dickson also connected us with Dr. Terry Hynes, a researcher for the film with a lifetime of experience in education. We flew Dr. Hynes to Denver to take part in each presentation by introducing the film and the goals of the filmmakers and providing engaging answers to questions posed by students about the film, the history and her experience. See a short video clip of Dr. Hynes engaging in a discussion with students.

Partnering with Schools

One of the most exciting aspects of the Miryam Brand program is that it is fully funded by the Brand family. This enables the Mizel Museum to bring Holocaust education to schools that may not otherwise be able to afford it. Deanne explains, “With the state of public education funding, we believe it is important to bring the film to schools with more limited budgets for such programming.”

Last Flight of Petr Ginz pins sent to schools

Last Flight of Petr Ginz pins sent to schools

One of these schools is Farrell B. Howell K-8 School, which participated in the Miryam Brand program this year. This school in Montbello has a 97% participation rate in the free and reduced lunch program and 65% of its students are dual language children. “We are thrilled that we could bring the Miryam Brand program to them at no cost to the school,” said Deanne.

Winning Young Hearts and Minds – and an Award

“The story came to life,” said Elina Medina, M.A., sixth grade Language Arts teacher at Howell. She continued, “I am amazed to see, three weeks later, the number of self-directed independent projects, from pictures of trains to shadow boxes to essays. Not a single independent project is required or receives a grade. Today, I received yet another submission.”

We are also proud and honored to announce that the 2013 Miryam Brand Holocaust Education Film Project was selected by the Mountains-Plains Museums Association as this year’s winner of the EdCom Award for Excellence in Programming, which recognizes exemplary creativity and innovation in museum educational programming.

The Miryam Brand Holocaust Education Film Project has received an overwhelmingly positive response from students and educators as well as from education and museum leadership. As for Deanne, her response sums up the 2013 program quite well: “Having the opportunity to bring this beautiful film and gifted educator to enhance students’ experience of history – in order the they may use this learning to make choices now and in the future — at school, at home, and in their community — is absolutely the highlight of my year.”

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This entry was posted in Art, Education Department, Film, Holocuast, Programs. Bookmark the permalink.

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