Treasure Chest for Change

It is a challenge to help students to learn not only about history but also from it.
Grade Level

I use Treasure Chest for Change as the culminating activity of an interdisciplinary Holocaust unit, but it could be used with any unit on intolerance. I designed Treasure Chest for Change to help students remember and apply lessons of tolerance, diversity and civic responsibility (see some examples).

Introduce the project to students by giving each of them a photocopy of a treasure chest. Tell students that although they’ll fill the chests with pictures of everyday objects, the chests are valuable because they hold the potential to change the world. Even though this activity could be done by acquiring items and filling shoeboxes, tell students they’ll be using pictures instead so that they can carry their treasure chests wherever they go.

Explain that the everyday objects used to fill the chests must somehow serve as reminders to promote peace and tolerance. They must also be reminders to practice the courage needed to stand up for their beliefs. (It may also be helpful to review the concept of metaphor.) Offer a few ideas to get your students started. For example, Swedish fish might help students remember the courage of the fishermen who sneaked Jews out of Nazi-occupied Denmark to Sweden. A shoe might remind students that it’s important to be considerate of others by “walking in their shoes.” Let them brainstorm in small groups first, and then have a class discussion. List all ideas on poster paper. From the class-generated list, students should choose at least five objects of their own for their treasure chests. They can draw the objects or find computer clip art.

After the treasure chests are creatively decorated, students should write a reflective essay explaining the significance of each object. In their explanations, students must connect the objects to incidents in history that the class has studied. For example, a student may have included a picture of a lighthouse to remind her that people can be beacons of light to others. An example of this might be people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Allow students to share their essays and remind them of the assignment’s purpose: to carry the lessons of tolerance, diversity and civic responsibility with them wherever they go.

Deb Westgate-Silva
Slater Junior High School
Pawtucket, R.I.

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