Lesson Plans for Middle and High School Classrooms Will Be Available on Ken Burns in the Classroom Timed to Film’s Sept. 18 Premiere on PBS and PBS.org

Arlington, VA; September 7, 2022 – PBS LearningMedia, the educational arm of PBS, today announced the partial release of free lesson plans for middle and high school classrooms for the new documentary, THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST, directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein. The full collection of educational materials will be available Sept. 18 on the Ken Burns in the Classroom hub on PBSLearningMedia.org, the same day the film premieres on PBS and PBS.org.

The materials were announced at an event at the U.S. Holoaust Memorial Museum with filmmakers Ken Burns and Sarah Botstein, who were joined by Gretchen Skidmore, Director of Education Initiatives at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Daniel Greene, President of the Newberry Library in Chicago and curator of the Museum’s ‘Americans and the Holocaust’ exhibition.

These lesson plans, developed by PBS LearningMedia with historical and archival support from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will help middle and high school teachers utilize the three-part, six-hour film to teach students about the Holocaust and how the United States responded to one of the greatest crises of the 20th century. The lesson plans are available on the PBS LearningMedia Ken Burns in the Classroom site.

The educational resources include eight comprehensive lesson plans, each drawing upon clips from the film, covering the following topics: the impacts of Nazi ideology; U.S. immigration policy from 1924-1941; U.S. media coverage of the Holocaust; the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of American values; an examination of how individuals make choices during times of crisis; how U.S. public opinion influenced the country’s response to the Holocaust and the refugee crises; a photography analysis activity; and a lesson about World War II and the Holocaust. Each of the eight lessons include activities to engage students in critical media analysis and resources to support middle and high school educators teaching these topics.

“Education is a life-long pursuit and it begins in the classroom, where our extraordinary teachers inspire us to think and learn. We are fortunate that our films broadcast on PBS where we have extensive educational materials that accompany them” said co-directors Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein. “Working with teachers and historians on the content for this series was a real privilege, and we could not be more honored to partner with our colleagues at PBS and to benefit from the historical expertise of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and hope that the lesson plans will be included in a variety of classrooms utilized by students for years to come.”

In addition to the eight lesson plans, PBS will also offer a self-paced professional development course for educators in partnership with Florentine Films, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Echoes & Reflections. This interactive course, designed to instruct educators on how best to utilize the content of the film in the classroom, integrates historical footage from the film into a single pedagogical narrative, offering resources and strategies to teach about the Holocaust and World War II to promote critical thinking and reflection.

The PBS lesson plans will help introduce both contemporary research and historical perspectives that can be utilized by multiple disciplines and grade levels across the country. Video components will be uploaded timed to the broadcast of the film.

“We’re proud to work with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to bring these important lessons to teachers and students across the country,” said Lori Brittain, VP of PBS LearningMedia. “We know that educators value Ken Burns in the Classroom resources, and this content has been thoughtfully designed to help broaden students’ perspective, knowledge and understanding of this critical time in our history.”

PBS LearningMedia provides educators access to the best of public media and delivers free, research-based, classroom-ready digital learning experiences to engage students in exploring curriculum concepts that align with the National and Common Core State Standards. Nationwide, more than 1.5 million monthly users access tens of thousands of digital resources available through PBS LearningMedia.

PBS, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Association of Holocaust Organizations will host a series of live events for educators leading up to the documentary’s premiere on Sept. 18. On Wednesday, Sept. 7, filmmakers Ken Burns and Sarah Botstein joined Gretchen Skidmore, Director of Education Initiatives at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Daniel Greene, President of the Newberry Library in Chicago and curator of the Museum’s ‘Americans and the Holocaust’ exhibition, for an in-person panel discussion about the film and Holocaust education at the museum in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, Sept. 13, educators nationwide are invited to join filmmakers Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein for a virtual preview of the film, followed by a virtual panel focused on using the film in the classroom, moderated by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Gretchen Skidmore. Teachers can sign up for the virtual preview and panel conversation here. Additional educator events with Holocaust survivors and educators will take place in October and February.

“We are honored to work with Ken, Lynn and Sarah to help prepare materials that will allow educators to utilize this exceptional educational resource in their classrooms,” said Gretchen Skidmore from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “As with our initiative on ‘Americans and the Holocaust,’ their film will help students to consider what Americans knew about the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, what they did in response and what those decisions mean for us today. We are very proud to have worked with them and to provide support to PBS LearningMedia, to ensure that the educational materials developed for this film will reach teachers around the country.”

THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST will air September 18, 19 and 20, at 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app. THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST will be distributed internationally by PBS International. The series will be available to stream for free on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view the documentary via PBS Passport as part of a full collection of Ken Burns films. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.


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PBS LearningMedia, a partnership of PBS and GBH, is an online destination that offers free access to thousands of resources from PBS stations and partners. These digital tools are designed to complement classroom instruction — from videos, images and interactives, to lesson plans, articles and primary sources. Available for free to all educators pre-K through 12th grade, PBS LearningMedia offers classroom-ready content aligned to state and national standards, compatible with the tools teachers use most, such as Google Classroom, and contextualized with supporting materials. Each month, more than 1.5 million unique users visit PBS LearningMedia to enhance teaching practice and support student learning. Learn more at pbslearningmedia.org.

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