PBS Offers Free Lesson Plans, Teaching Course for Educators Related to Upcoming Ken Burns Holocaust Documentary

PBS Offers Free Lesson Plans, Teaching Course for Educators Related to Upcoming Ken Burns Holocaust Documentary

Shiryn Ghermezian

Immigrants waiting to be transferred on Ellis Island, October 30, 1912. / Photo: Courtesy of Library of Congress.

PBS LearningMedia, the educational arm of the PBS network, announced the release of free lesson plans for middle and high school teachers to help educate students about topics explored in an upcoming documentary that focuses on how the United States government and American people responded to the Holocaust as it unfolded in Europe.

The three-part film “The US and the Holocaust,” co-directed by award-winning American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, will air on PBS from Sept. 18-20. It examines America’s actions, or lack thereof, concerning the Holocaust as well as the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi ideology in Germany within the framework of global antisemitism and racism, including in the United States.

PBS will provide eight lesson plans for educators that address clips from the film and cover various topics, including the impact of Nazism; US immigration policy from 1924-1941; US media coverage of the Holocaust; and how public opinion in the United States influenced the American government’s response to the Holocaust and the refugee crises.

Some of the free lesson plans have already been released but the full collection of educational materials will be available on Sept. 18 on the “Ken Burns in the Classroom” hub on PBS LearningMedia’s website. The lesson plans were developed with historical and archival help from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, whose exhibit, “Americans and the Holocaust,” partially inspired Burns’ documentary.

Lori Brittain, vice president of PBS LearningMedia, said the educational resources related to the documentary “has been thoughtfully designed to help broaden students’ perspective, knowledge and understanding of this critical time in our history.”

Aside from the eight lesson plans, PBS will also offer a professional development course for teachers that aims to instruct them on the best ways to make use of the film and its contents in their classrooms. The course was created in partnership with Florentine Films, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Echoes & Reflections, which provides teachers and students with Holocaust educational materials.

Teachers can also can sign up for a special virtual preview of “The US and the Holocaust” on Sept. 13 specifically for educators that will be followed by a panel conversation, in which the film’s directors will discuss ways to utilize the documentary in the classroom. Additional events for educators will take place in October and February.

The three-part, six-hour film “The US and the Holocaust” will air Sept. 18-20 from 8-10 pm ET on PBS and PBS.org and the PBS Video app.

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