Holocaust Butterfly Project teaches students importance of empathy, inclusion, compassion


Nicole Vasallo

Sketching the outline of her butterfly as she prepares to paint, eighth grade dance major, Shyla Dorceus, understands the importance of being a part of the Holocaust Butterfly Project. “It means a lot to me because I know the Holocaust survivors are dying off. We need to make sure that the Holocaust is known,” Dorceus said.

Students in Amanda Gordon’s eighth grade language arts class participated in the Holocaust Butterfly Project.

“The Holocaust Butterfly project is a project where kids learn about the Holocaust and about children who died in the Holocaust in order to stomp out bigotry and hatred and promote kindness,” Gordon said.

The project’s goal was to help increase Holocaust awareness with a virtual lesson and the creation of butterflies.

“We had to draw a butterfly in our own way, and then [the butterflies] would be hung up for all the children that died in the Holocaust,” Shyla Dorceus, eighth grade dance major, said.

The butterflies were painted on tiles to represent the children who had died in the Holocaust. These tiles were placed throughout Palm Beach County.

“The best part of the project is the fact that our artwork is going to be hung up to show all the kids that died just because of one man who did not like Jewish people,” Dorceus said.

In the virtual lesson, students learned about the Holocaust. Some gained new information prior to participating in the project.

“I learned that it wasn’t just different minorities that got killed. It was also teachers, lawyers, educators, and people like that [that] got killed,” Alina Wester, eighth grade communications major, said.

Dorceus had learned the same thing during the virtual lesson. Jewish people were not the only ones who were tortured for being different.

“I learned that not only Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust; disabled people and even teachers and nurses were. I didn’t know that before [we had the lesson],” Dorceus said.

Gordon and her students thought that it was  important to participate in the project because it helped open the eyes of students and teachers to the true horrors of the Holocaust. It also encouraged students to be better individuals.

Gordon said, “I think that this taught the kids that there’s more to life than just outside of our classroom, and that kindness really can make a difference. [We need] to accept each other as we are. We’re all unique just like the butterflies.”