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OKH Middle School brings Holocaust history to Bardstown with mock museum project

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By Kacie Goode

Eighth-graders at Old Kentucky Home Middle School transformed their halls and classrooms into a Holocaust museum experience Thursday night, bringing the history of the famous genocide to a Bardstown audience.

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The public was invited to walk the halls between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., during which students of the Class of 2023 presented Holocaust-themed passion projects.

“They went above and beyond what we expected,” said teacher Taylor Bumgardner, who helped oversee the initiative. Bumgardner said the students were given little constraint when it came to their projects, and were encouraged to find a subtopic about which they were passionate.

The students spent weeks researching, studying and preparing for their presentations, which ranged from posters and skits to videos, artwork and interactive displays. To prepare, the students read Holocaust-related novels in class, discussed events, and in March visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Eighth-grader Kaleigh Ervin, who took part in a promotional video for the exhibit, called the visit to the D.C. museum “impactful” and an important piece of history that everyone should experience.

“I feel like it’s important for people to know about the events of the Holocaust, because if you know about the genocide that happened then, you can talk about genocides that happened after that and genocides that are going on right now,” she said.

The goal in bringing the museum to Bardstown was to allow students to educate the local community about the Holocaust and share what they had learned in their own creative forms.

Cameron Turner and Colby Farley chose to do a podcast for their project, and explored Adolf Hitler’s younger years.

“We wanted to look at why he was the way he was, how he achieved the things he did and how he rose to power,” Turner said. “A lot of things that happened in his childhood shaped who he was” as an adult.

“It’s a side of Hitler nobody really knows,” Farley added.

Not only did the two friends convert a closet into a soundproofed studio to record podcast episodes in advance, they also went live Thursday night answering questions provided by visitors to the exhibit.

In addition to discussing Hitler’s upbringing, Turner and Farley also wanted to look at issues such as racism and prejudice, and how they played directly into the Holocaust and persecution not only of Jewish people but also people of color.

“If you were not part of the ‘perfect Aryan race’ that Hitler had in his mind, you were an outcast,” Turner said, adding the issues of racism, prejudice and persecution of others are still present today.

“We need to learn about our history to keep from repeating it,” he said.

By the end of the night, the eighth-grade class project had drawn a large crowd and a positive response by those who visited.

“They worked so hard on this,” OKH Principal Melissa Case said of her students. She also took a tour Thursday night, seeing the final product come together. She said the preparation from students and their understanding of the topic was amazing.