The power of Project Based Learning: The Irena Sendler Project

Irena Sendler (1910-2008), Polish social worke...
Irena Sendler (1910-2008), Polish social worker and activist, Righteous Among the Nations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across an entry in Google Plus and it had the following statement:

irena_10

 

I had heard about Irena Sandler only very recently. I was fascinated that this woman had helped to save 1500 Jewish children from almost certain death in camps such as Treblinka and yet had been living in Poland for over 40 years where her contributions had been ignored.

It was not until 1965 that the Israeli Government managed to put her into the Yad Vashem Hall of “Righteous Gentiles” that there was any recognition at all for what she had done. This development was to prove crucial when a group of four schoolgirls in a Social Studies class in Kansas, U.S.A. were asked to do a project for World History Day. They decided they wanted to look at the “Holocaust”.

They found , in 1999, when they started their project, one internet entry (from Yad Vashem) about this fascinating and almost totally unknown woman. They decided to look further into her life and work and they eventually wrote a play called Life In a Jar“. They went further though, in that they eventually met Irena in her native Poland and kept in touch with her until her death in 2008.

The Project transformed their lives and the life of a noble woman who may well have died unknown and forgotten if it were not for the efforts of 4 young girls in Kansas!

To further investigate this story watch  the full-length video called “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sandler”. The Project continues and has widened to include the search for unknown figures who have contributed to humanity. The website can be found at  http://www.irenasendler.com/

There has also been a book written about the project and the wonderful story of the girls “Life In A Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” by Jack Mayer.

To me this whole story is an example of just how powerful Project Based Learning can be. The real hero of this piece is a teacher called Norm Conard who had championed this form of education in his part of Kansas for many years and managed, with this particular project to literally change the world for four young girls and one very special woman living in obscurity in Poland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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