Students in Mrs. Amber Buckley’s ninth-grade class and Mrs. Traci Barrientos’ class are studying Night by Elie Wiesel throughout the next two weeks. As a supplement to the text, students are doing independent analyses on poems written by children in the concentration camp of Terezin.
To give students a visual image of the lives of these children and how few of them survived the camp, they are creating butterflies to represent the child that wrote their poem. At the beginning of the oral presentations, 58 butterflies hung throughout Mrs. Buckley’s classroom, each representing a child. What students were unaware of is that they would learn the fate of their child following their oral presentations; if the child died during the Holocaust, students had to cut down their butterfly, and, if the child survived, butterflies stayed hanging.
SPCHS Freshman Gabriela Quintana said, “The poems were about the experiences children had in concentration camps. They showed us the way each child viewed life in the concentration camps. My poem, The Butterfly, was about how there were no butterflies or any other signs of life in the camp in which he stayed. Mrs. Buckley hung the butterflies in her classroom. If the author of your poem died in the concentration camps, you had to cut your butterfly. I was one of the many people who had to cut their butterfly. Like many of my classmates, I was moved after reading my poem.”
Mrs. Buckley said, “Mrs. Barrientos found this activity on the Holocaust Museum of Houston website and we felt it would be a powerful supplement to Night. Our students read about tragedies all the time, in literature and history, but rarely do they hear of these tragedies from a peer’s perspective. Although Night is from the perspective of Elie Wiesel when he was 14, he was one of the few who survived. The Butterfly project allows students to read and analyze poetry of children close to their age but also illustrates to them that many of the children didn’t survive the Holocaust. We will eventually have all but five or six butterflies cut down and on our classroom floor, representing the loss of young lives during WWII.”