In a heartwarming collaboration between Mount Vernon Middle School and the Daffodil Project, Grade 8 students had the unique opportunity to play a role in memorializing the 1.5 million children who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Spearheaded by David Ayers, Dean of Students for the Middle School, the partnership created an opportunity for deeper learning by providing a relevant dive into literacies and attributes while fostering a sense of community and remembrance.

Partnership Genesis

The partnership began over the summer with a call from a representative of Temple Emanu-El, a synagogue in Atlanta, inviting Mount Vernon to participate in the Daffodil Project. The Daffodil Project aspires to build a worldwide Living Holocaust Memorial by planting 1.5 million Daffodils in memory of the children who perished in the Holocaust and in support for children suffering in humanitarian crises in the world today. Daffodils represent poignant hope for the future. They are resilient and return with a burst of color each spring, signifying hope, renewal and beauty. Mount Vernon eagerly accepted the invitation, with the Grade 8 class being a natural fit for the ongoing project.

Knowledge Meeting Impact

The collaboration seamlessly integrates into the Grade 8 curriculum, which involves studying the Holocaust and will include a class trip to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC the first week in March. The partnership also incorporates core literacies including scientific inquiry, with the attributes of empathy and grace. Additionally, the collaboration establishes an important connection between historical lessons and meaningful real-world, real-time engagement.

Survivor’s Insights

On Thursday, November 16, a Holocaust survivor, Herschel Greenblat came to speak to the entire class sharing his story. Born in the caves of Ukraine, Herschel Greenblat survived the Holocaust because of the resourcefulness and determination of his parents in evading the Nazis. As he states, “It is because of my parents’ unwavering will that we were able to survive the horrors of the Holocaust.” When the family settled in Atlanta, Herschel learned how to become an American as well as an active member of his southern community. Mr. Greenblat emphasized three essential values: love and respect for parents, teachers, and each other. Following the impactful session, students gathered to plant daffodil bulbs on the Upper Campus.

Community Engagement

Substantial preparation went into cultivating the soil, with each Grade 8 student actively engaging in planting a total of 500 bulbs on the Upper Campus, surrounding the trees near the Middle School. To date, the Daffodil Project Memorial Gardens include 861,000 Daffodils in 469 Locations. You can view the map of all locations here.

Student Reflections

The students’ reflections capture the depth of the experience. Sarah Neff from Grade 8 expressed the significance of planting bulbs, stating, “Being able to put the bulbs in soil. You’re helping people remember.”

Charlie Rosenthal from Grade 6 found the experience meaningful as it affirmed his beliefs, while Smith Andres from Grade 8 highlighted the impact of hearing about historical moments from someone who experienced them firsthand. Katherine Gober from Grade 8 emphasized the powerful impact of listening to a survivor’s account, transcending the lessons learned in class.

New Flowers Starting to Bloom

Mr. Greenblat will return to campus next week (February 29) to visit with Grade 8 students and to commemorate the blooms that have recently sprouted. He plans to encourage students to take advantage of their upcoming trip to DC to learn more while visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Mount Vernon Middle School’s partnership with the Daffodil Project stands as a testament to the power of contextualized learning and community engagement. Through this initiative, students deepened their understanding of history embracing attributes of empathy, integrity and grace. The blooming daffodils on Upper Campus serve as a living tribute, reminding future generations to stand up against injustice and cultivate a world rooted in love, peace and kindness.