As part of their curriculum in studying the Holocaust, the entire South Orangetown Middle School eighth grade is working to understand another facet of the atrocities of that infamous piece of our history.

This initiative started with a group of eight SOMS students who were determined to enhance the teaching of the Holocaust in school as another way to develop respect and tolerance. These middle school students, along with Tappan Zee High School Social Studies Team Leader Scott Silver and 80 high school students, attended the recent JCC Film Festival. There, they viewed NOT The Last Butterfly, a film that speaks of the Holocaust from the children’s perspective of the fear, confusion, hope–and the influence of some adults who tried to make their plight the slightest bit more endurable. The film inspired The Butterfly Project, which challenges people around the world to paint 1.5 million ceramic butterflies to memorialize the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust, and to honor the survivors.

When they returned to school, the SOMS students asked Principal Karen Tesik to help them join the project and develop a plan to make it happen.  On June 16, eighth-grade students viewed the film before heading into the cafeteria where ceramic butterflies lined the tables for painting. The painted butterflies will eventually be hung in the building as SOMS’ contribution to the worldwide effort to memorialize the 1.5 million children of the Holocaust.  “This is just the beginning of what will be an annual tribute to The Butterfly Project, and at the same time of reinforcing the character traits of respect, tolerance and hopefulness,” commented Mrs. Tesik. “I am so proud that we were able to inaugurate the project this year and that we will sustain it as an annual mission.”

Group of seven middle school students holding The Butterfly Project ceramic butterflies and brochures

The initiating group: Lucy R., Adam G., Sena N., Noah K., Sophie S., Jacob K. and Sasha K. Not pictured: William J.