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Creative Learning about Tolerance

One of the things I love about assessing an initiative is hearing stories that, taken together, offer up a richly textured and meaningful narrative. One I encountered recently speaks volumes about the lifelong impact that studies are likely to have when kids are given opportunities to be creative. In this case, two Minnesota seventh graders were asked to come up with a project for National History Day – a contest conducted by the University of Maryland in which a half million participate annually. The topic: triumph and tragedy. Having learned from her older sister’s fiancé, a history buff stationed in Okinawa, that the U.S. rounded up and interned Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, Michelle Reed was stunned and invited her friend Carly Gutzmann to find out why. Alert to their own contemporary environment, the two recognized immediately it as a “huge act of profiling” and were appalled that no one seemed to know about it. After doing a year’s worth of primary research they produced a documentary. But they also spawned an amazing chain reaction in deciding to make an origami paper “crane” to honor each of the 120,313 incarcerated. You can read more about the girls’ efforts here and here and get a sense of their peer’s creativity here. The lesson learned? “It’s all about not being a bystander,” says Michelle.

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