Feb. 19, 2020
Butterfly Project flutters into Boyce
Valentine’s Day is typically filled with messages of love and friendship. At Boyce Middle School those messages were accompanied by compassion, acceptance, empathy and hope as sixth graders painted ceramic butterflies as part of the Butterfly Project, a Holocaust education program. The project, which kicked-off on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, is part of the school’s No Place for Hate initiative through the Anti-Defamation League.
According to the Butterfly Project’s website, “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. Participants paint ceramic butterflies that are permanently displayed as symbols of resilience and hope, with the goal of creating 1.5 million butterflies around the world—one for each child who perished in the Holocaust, and honoring the survivors.”
“We chose the Butterfly Project because at its heart is kids paying respect to other kids,” Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, said. “We thought that this project would be a meaningful way for kids to honor other kids – specifically, the 1.5 million that lost their lives as a result of the Holocaust.”
The more than 300 painted butterflies will be displayed within the school. When the weather improves, Mr. O’Rourke hopes to have them installed in the school’s courtyard gardens.
“We actually have real butterfly bushes out there already, and have seen butterflies flying around when the weather is nice,” he said. “The ceramic butterflies will be a beautiful addition.”
The Boyce Middle School staff has established a working relationship with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. A few staff members had the opportunity to attend a Holocaust Summer Teacher Institute and the school has continued to collaborate with the center’s education outreach associate, Emily Bernstein.
“The Holocaust Center has been instrumental in providing guidance on teaching this sensitive topic, providing various teacher trainings, and also suggesting appropriate resources,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “We saw the Butterfly Project as a natural connection since our sixth graders read novels that relate to the Holocaust.”
As part of the sixth grade English language arts curriculum, students read the novels, “The Devil’s Arithmetic” and “Number the Stars,” earlier in the semester. In addition, through the school’s partnership with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, students attended a presentation by Mrs. Lynne Ravas, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, and former middle school English teacher.
In addition to its curricular connections, the Butterfly Project and the partnership with the Holocaust Center serve as important components of the school’s No Place for Hate initiative.
“It is our hope that students will be more knowledgeable about the Holocaust, as well as be better equipped to appreciate diversity and to be more inclusive in general,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “Empathy is such a critical skill for all people to embrace and develop. We are committed to providing programs and experiences that encourage students to appreciate differences in others and to be kinder and more empathetic.”
In addition to the Holocaust Center, Boyce Middle School has partnered with the Children’s Institute to conduct “Understanding Autism” presentations for all fifth and sixth graders. The school’s next No Place for Hate activity is a multi-cultural event from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, 2020.