Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education

The Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education was a one-time award created to support Canada's Chair Year of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This award promoted exemplary teaching methods and helped teachers share innovative ideas within Canada's education community.

Teachers from across Canada working in a provincially or territorially accredited school, teaching grades 6-12 (elementary 6 to secondary 5 in Quebec), were eligible to apply for the $5,000 award to support Holocaust education at their school.

There were a total of 34 nominations from nine provinces. A panel of three judges—a representative of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, a Holocaust educator from the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre in Winnipeg and a Government of Canada official—selected the top six applications based on the evaluation criteria.

While the Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education is no longer available, teachers are encouraged to visit the Education Working Group of the IHRA to learn more about teaching the Holocaust in schools.

Winner, Mr. Scott Masters, a teacher at Crestwood Preparatory College in Toronto.


Read Scott Masters Holocaust lesson plan for Grade 12 History class.

Mr. Scott Masters, Crestwood Preparatory College, Toronto, Ontario

Grade 12: History

Using Power Point presentations supported by guest speakers, the students explore the Holocaust, what life would have been like within the Warsaw Ghetto, and Holocaust denial.
Students build on the Oral History Project (OHP) collection through an out of class digital interview assignment with a relative or community member, who can comment on their role in a major 20th century event in Canadian/world history.

Students are also tasked with an essay assignment using the OHP on one of the following themes:

  • "A picture (or 2) is worth a thousand words": Students are directed to choose two photographs, write a 500-word essay on the circumstances surrounding the photographs and then use the photographs as a basis for a mini-research essay looking into their history even further.
  • Students may choose two survivor testimonies and create a 500-word essay discussing and comparing their experience under a category of their choice, such as deportation to and life in the camps or their experiences with anti-Semitism before the war.

Students are further engaged in exploration of the Holocaust through a history-based review of a movie presented in class (500-750 words). In this assignment, students explore the ability of the movie to capture the reality of the Holocaust and its ability to act as an educational instrument.

Honourable mentions

Read the Holocaust lesson plans for the teachers that received honorable mention for the Award for Excellence in Holocaust education.

Ms. Line Dube and Ms. Annie Frenette, Marie-Clarac Secondary School, Montréal, Quebec

Secondary 5 or Grade 11: Ethics and Religious Culture, French, English, History

This program commences with a 60 minute presentation to set the stage for exploration of the concept of human ambivalence (moral dilemma) in history.

All students are assigned to read The Alternative Hypothesis ( La Part de l'Autre ) by Éric‑Emmanuel Schmitt, an alternative history novel that follows the lives of Adolf Hitler and the imaginary character Adolf H. Reading of the novel is accompanied by in-class discussion.

To enable students to understand the main actors during the Second World War—perpetrators, bystanders, victims and heroes – students are exposed to a range of research materials on human behaviour, such as: Goleman's emotional and social intelligence; Kohlberg's six stages of moral development; Maslow's hierarchy of needs; and studies on human behaviour by Milgram , Zimbardo , Darley and Latané .

The historical facts of the Second World War are studied in a unit on 20th Century history. In English class, students explore the Holocaust using the Echoes and Reflections instructional guide. Students are tasked with producing an oral presentation on one of the topics covered in the guide.

Other activities include a visit to the Montreal Holocaust Museum and a lecture in which students learn about the experience of Montréal's Jews today.
The final assignment for students is a 500‑word thesis responding to the question: " Could you or someone you know become the new 'Adolf Hitler' and willingly become his supporter or unwillingly become one of his foot soldiers?"

Mr. Ken Ipe, Dr. Charles Best Secondary School, Coquitlam, British Columbia

Grade 12: Social Justice, Social Studies

Drawing on many resources, including the accounts of Holocaust survivors, historical texts and the deconstruction of Nazi propaganda, students are challenged to understand the role of dehumanization.

Students are also tasked with a variety of assignments:

  • Students reflect on a series of articles related to the nature of genocide, particularly the Holocaust, and articulate through journals how the articles affect them. Students are exposed to a variety of different sources on a wide range of themes, including the stories of Holocaust survivors, the role of women in the Nazi party, modern day anti-Semitism and the role of Holocaust education today.
  • Students design their own social justice project to demonstrate the value and importance of positive social action. The lessons learned from the Holocaust are used as a catalyst to inspire students to be active in the political process and challenge them to be local, provincial, national, and global leaders for positive social change. Student projects have included food bank collections, blood drives, and awareness campaigns for such contemporary issues as genocides in Darfur and the Congo, female-genital mutilation and the Ethiopian famine.

Students are further engaged in exploration of the Holocaust through the School District's Annual Holocaust Symposium, which brings together over 600 students each year from the district's secondary schools. The symposium includes a performance by a school choir, testimony from a Holocaust survivor, and an opportunity for selected students to address the audience about how they are promoting social justice locally and globally.

Ms. Tricia Leduc, Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School, Ottawa, Ontario

Grade 12: Global Studies, History, Law, Social Studies

In a grade 12 Conflict and Crises course, students learn about the Holocaust within the context of human rights and issues of genocide more broadly.

Students acquire the knowledge necessary to understand conflict and genocide by developing a vocabulary and knowledge of concepts related to genocide, including human rights violations, humanitarian crises, crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, internally displaced persons, refugee camps, massacres and civil war. Students deepen their knowledge of the Holocaust and other genocides through various activities:

  • Working in small groups, students prepare for a mock trial related to war crimes from the past 70 years. Drawing upon academic articles, students prepare and present arguments for both the prosecution and the defense, and render a final verdict based on legal reasoning.
  • Students use fiction or non-fiction to deepen their knowledge of the Holocaust or of another genocide. Students examine key themes, including historical forces and trends that led to the conflict, key events and turning points, international responses, and the conflict's lasting effects and legacy.

Students are engaged with the theme of human rights and coordinated, planned and delivered a youth conference that commemorated the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities. Students invited 300 of their peers from across the School Board to learn about mass atrocities through student displays and expert guest speakers.

Mr. Dale Martelli, Vancouver Technical Secondary School, Vancouver, British Columbia

Grade 8 – 12: Flex Humanities Program, History

Students learn about the history of Jewish life by examining philosophical works from different periods in history. Students critically explore philosophical texts and their connection to the history of Jewish life in Europe using the following key thinkers and themes:

  • the Jewish diaspora experience in mediaeval Europe and the philosophical work of Maimonides, who bridged Muslim and Christian thought during the mediaeval period;
  • history and literature of Jewish life in 17th and 18th century Europe, the philosophical work of Spinoza, and his legacy and role in the European enlightenment; and
  • philosophical work of Marx and Nietzsche, the nature of the assimilation of Jews in Western Europe, the emergence of modern Anti-Semitism, the development of Zionism, and the history and literature of Jewish life in 19th century Europe.

Students use a variety of resources to create an open format study based on a case study of a victim/survivor of the Shoah. Students provide a creative, detailed and research-based study of the individual's pre-war life and his/her Shoah experience, including their experiences with major events related to the Holocaust.

Mr. Graeme Stacey, Kelowna Secondary School, Kelowna, British Columbia

Grade 12: History

At the beginning of the course, students are provided with an essential focus question, " How and why did the Holocaust and subsequent genocides occur?" This provides students with a lens through which to study the Holocaust.

In a three-part assignment, students explore the theme What does the Holocaust look like on paper, comparing and contrasting definitions of the Holocaust from Yad Vashem, the Imperial War Museum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In the second unit, grade 6 and grade 12 students come together and use the topics of the Holocaust and human rights to explore the Holocaust and its implications. Students are provided with an activity book to guide the partnership activities.

The third unit runs concurrent to the other units and requires the students to study the book, I Cannot Forgive by Rudolf Vrba, a man who successfully escaped from Auschwitz. In their assignment, students respond to three questions, which require them to analyze the three titles the book has been published under, describe the escape from Auschwitz, and analyze the implications and the responses to the Vrba-Wetzler Report, one of the first reports that alerted political and Jewish leaders to the true nature of the Nazi death camps.

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