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Students to take leadership role with Anne Frank exhibit

Posted: January 2, 2014 4:09 p.m.
Updated: January 3, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Students at Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) will take on leadership roles when an international exhibit on World War II diarist Anne Frank opens at the school Jan. 9. According to former L-EHS student Coy Gibson, who helped have his alma mater selected as an exhibition site, current students will play an important role during the exhibit’s appearance.

“The leadership component is very important,” Gibson said. “The student leaders act as guides to walk other students and visiting community members through the exhibit, explaining images and asking questions.”

L-EHS Social Studies teacher Sharon White helped coordinate the opening of Anne Frank: A History for Today. The Jan. 9 opening will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.; the exhibit will also be open to the public on Jan. 23 and Feb. 6, also from 6 to 8 p.m. There is no charge.

White said the exhibit is intended to serve “the people of the community just as much as the students.” She said Kershaw County is one of four South Carolina counties that have welcomed the exhibit. The others are Richland, Charleston and Dorchester.

The exhibit was developed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and is sponsored in the United States by the Anne Frank Center in New York. Gibson -- a student at the University of South Carolina majoring in political science -- said one of his professors, Doyle Stebick, asked him to be part of a four-person team to help facilitate getting the exhibit into South Carolina schools. Gibson said Stebick had worked with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and wanted to share the traveling experience with schools here.

Gibson also spent six weeks completing an internship at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam which fueled his desire to get the traveling exhibit into local schools. It provided him with knowledge and experience on the subject. Gibson said part of what he appreciates most about the unique opportunity offered by the exhibit being hosted by a high school is that it offers the chance for students to become leaders.

He said it is effective for students to work as leaders because “they’re around Frank’s age … and that serves as a unique learning experience for students.”

White agreed that the experience for students is greater “than a textbook experience” for learning. She said it is also more than a museum exhibit experience as well. Visitors will tour the exhibit in small groups with a student leader who will explain the various images, while discussing his or her personal connection and understanding of what the images represent.

White further explained that the tour is followed by a time of reflection where student leaders facilitate discussion amongst visitors.

“We focus on three main concepts,” White said. “We ask ‘How did the Holocaust happen?’; we look at Frank and her family specifically and ask ‘What happened to them and how did it happen?’; and finally, we ask ‘How is what happened to Frank relevant to what’s happening in the world today?’”

White said the reflection portion of the tour serves as a way to help students make a connection with what they saw. She said students will complete an “electronic reflection” where they will discuss the impact the exhibit had on them via a computer document.

“Most students read about Anne Frank in eighth grade,” White explained. “Seeing the exhibit and talking about it with the student leaders gives them an authentic lesson and allows them to make personal connections with the information.”

Gibson said the exhibit serves a very practical purpose in that it reinforces state standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education.

“(Frank is) a great vehicle for introducing the Holocaust to middle and high school students,” Gibson said. “She gives a voice to those who don’t have a voice. It adds layers of knowledge and a lens for the students’ learning experience.”

He said the panels and discussion will generate questions about human rights throughout the world and about free speech. Like White, he appreciates that the event will attract community visitors along with students.

“It is as much about our community as it is about the students,” Gibson said.

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