Concluding 5 Months of Promoting Equity, Tolerance, Reconciliation and Awareness Through High School Level Genocide Education
08 Sep 2022
September 8th, 2022: The Zoryan Institute’s Promoting Equity, Tolerance, Reconciliation and Awareness Through Genocide Education Program, funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Education, wrapped up on August 31st, 2022. We are very pleased to share the outcomes of this program, which included presentations to over 20 high school classes across the Greater Toronto Area, a human rights and genocide education teacher training workshop, and the development of an online database of resources for genocide education at the high school level.
During the first phase of the program, human rights and genocide education presentations were delivered to over 550 high school students. These interactive presentations incorporated the use of firsthand testimonies from individuals who experienced genocide to offer unique perspectives on the complexities of processes of genocide and mass violations of human rights, and how they feel, allowing students to more deeply appreciate and empathize with their immediate impacts, and better understand the legacies of these atrocities. The presentations received wonderful responses from students and teachers alike, with students indicating that they learned about the commonalities and links between genocidal processes, as well as complexities in the legal definition of genocide, and the processes and legacies of the cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian context:
Discussions and points raised in the presentations also encouraged students to critically reflect upon challenging questions that remain at the center of public discourse and the field of human rights and genocide studies today. These included questions surrounding addressing intergenerational trauma, promoting reconciliation, the importance of acknowledgement, the limitations of international law and nation-states in responding to genocides, and preventing future genocides. The Zoryan Institute worked to address a number of these issues in the online video clips created in the second phase of the program.
The second phase of the program was focused on promoting more effective ways of teaching secondary school students about genocide and other gross violations of human rights. The Zoryan Institute’s virtual genocide and human rights education teacher training workshop, led by GHRUP Course Director, Prof. Joyce Apsel, facilitated an interactive learning community of 13 educators who came to the workshop prepared with specific questions related to their courses and pedagogy, and shared invaluable insights based on their own experiences that further strengthened the workshop’s impact on teachers. The workshop equipped secondary school educators with knowledge, resources, tools, and best practices to teach high school students about the complex issues related to human rights and genocide, and ideas for classroom activities to address some of the challenging questions raised by students during the Zoryan Institute’s high school presentations. Speaking about the workshop, one teacher stated:
To further address a number of important themes and issues pertaining to human rights and genocide studies, and to promote the sustainability of the impacts of the Promoting Equity, Tolerance, Reconciliation and Awareness Through Genocide Education Program, the Zoryan Institute created an online database of free clips and resources that is accessible to students, teachers, and caregivers. These resources were curated and developed with genocide and human rights experts in response to feedback on high school presentations from teachers and students, and to questions and priorities raised by teachers in the workshop. The resources include over a dozen short “Educational Clips for the Classroom”, “Training Clips for High School Teachers”, as well as additional resources including a lesson plan, activity guides, worksheets, assignments, and other resources for the classroom. This new database is accessible at https://zoryaninstitute.org/high-school-genocide-education-resources/.
The feedback the Zoryan Institute received from students and teachers on the presentations, as well as the remarks made by teachers in the teacher training workshop, highlight the pertinence of and demand for initiatives addressing issues of human rights and genocide at the high school level. Students’ engagement in the presentations, and the questions they had remaining after the presentations highlight their eagerness to learn about human rights and genocide as they relate to their own lives, and contemporary issues in Canadian and global society, and the need to create additional opportunities for dialogue on these issues in high school classrooms. With the success of its first high school level education program, the Zoryan Institute looks forward to pursuing further initiatives similar to this one going forward.