South Orangetown Central School District

On May 13 and 14, all sixth-grade students participated in South Orangetown Middle School’s third annual Butterfly Project event. The Butterfly Project is a call to action through education, the arts and memorial making. It uses the lessons of the Holocaust to educate about the dangers of hatred and bigotry and cultivates empathy and social responsibility. The entire grade painted ceramic butterflies that will be permanently displayed as symbols of resilience and hope.

The Butterfly Project was co-founded in 2006 by educator Jan Landau and artist Cheryl Rattner Price as an initiative at San Diego Jewish Academy to bring Holocaust education to life in a way that inspires students to make the world a better place. More than 250 communities are participating in the project across countries including Canada, Mexico, Israel, Australia, France, Tanzania, Cuba, Morocco, Hong Kong and Poland.

This year, SOMS art teachers Allison Meyers and Tatiana DiPierno teamed up with sixth-grade ELA teachers Pam Tarasco, Morgan Harris, Jackie Nandlal, Amanda Flahive, Jamie Fodor, Maureen O’Sullivan, Jill Verrino and Sara Nybro for a powerful presentation on the Holocaust. Students were engaged in discussions about history, prejudice and social responsibility, but most importantly, hope and acceptance.

“We were so proud to see the maturity and sensitivity of the sixth-graders during the Holocaust presentation and throughout the painting process,” noted Ms. Meyers and Ms. DiPierno. “The project provided a significant lesson in history, social responsibility, and tolerance, and gave the students a chance to see their teachers from different subject areas working together on this meaningful activity.”

Each student declared a purpose or an intent for painting his or her butterfly, which made the experience personal. Students painted butterflies to remember the victims of the Holocaust, to honor family members and friends, or to convey kindness, acceptance, and empathy.

The Grade 6 ELA teachers commented that their students “truly took this project to a new level. The topic was heavy to digest, but the students did an amazing job turning the project into something that was positive, beautiful and moving. It was inspiring to watch them rise to the challenge of being accepting and tolerant members of our school community.”

For more information about the Butterfly Project please visit: www.thebutterflyprojectnow.org.

Two female students painting ceramic butterflies