A metaphor about a fragile butterfly may give life to an invalid’s story, but it has far greater impact if you can see the delicate dust scales on a real butterfly’s wings.
Each student is assigned a poem from the collection I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which was written by children living in a ghetto during the Holocaust. Students must create an artwork butterfly that represents the poet and the poem. The butterflies hang in the classroom, while students are assigned to memorize their poem.
On the recitation day, after each presentation, the teacher cuts down the student’s butterfly if the real child-poet died and leaves it hanging if the poet survived. Here’s a snippet:
After the first butterfly is cut down (and only 2-3 butterflies will remain, and not the first butterfly), the class goes silent as the students realize the gravity of what they just learned. The students have identified with their poet by the care of the butterflies’ creations and by the memorization of that child’s words. After all, our students are close in age to the poets. This can be a very moving experience, and I rarely escape the period without tears or, at a minimum, silence.
The project comes from similar roots as the passports issued to visitors at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Each passport contains a real person’s story and serves as the visitor’s identity during his or her visit. In the back of the passport, the visitor learns whether he or she ultimately survived the Holocaust.
Similarly, by giving students time to creatively identify with their character, the Butterfly Project gives a human face to what are otherwise chilling, but sometimes impersonal, statistics.
Thanks, drpezz, for your thought-provoking post/project.