The Tour for Humanity mobile education centre arrived in Orillia on Tuesday morning.
The 30-seat bus parked in front of Orillia Secondary School (OSS) provided workshops to five classes of students and staff on topics such as the Holocaust, genocide, and Canada’s human rights.
The mobile education centre from Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center has travelled across the country and has delivered the experience to about 1,000 schools in six different provinces over the past 10 years.
“It’s a different kind of environment,” explained Daniella Lurion, the Tour for Humanity director who led the educational experience Tuesday. “It becomes a field trip but on school property.”
Today, students learned about residential schools and antisemitism from other eras, and then learned about hate crimes that are happening today. Students also learned about the Holocaust, Hitler’s rise to power, and why it matters still today.
“The bus kind of becomes a safe and brave space,” Lurion said. “Because the environment is so different from their classrooms, students will often feel more comfortable being exposed to content that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to.”
During the approximately 45-minute experience, Lurion says students often identify with the material they are taught, which is why the staff at OSS asked Tour for Humanity to stop in at their school.
“They really wanted the bus to come here,” she said. “I think it means we are certainly successful in educating the students and making them aware of these issues.”
Lurion says, sadly, the demand for the program underlines the need for it.
“It’s not limited to one community, unfortunately,” she said. “Discrimination is across time and space.”
Lurion hopes that when students leave the bus, they question some of the things they have learned.
“We leave every single workshop on a positive note and an action piece,” she said. “We do that so they can make positive changes in their daily life to help them learn from the past to make sure we don’t keep doing them again.”
Grade 10 students Nigel Hopewell and Kadyn Dixon both participated in Tour for Humanity workshops on Tuesday morning.
“It was very informative,” Hopewell said. “We’ve been learning a lot about the Holocaust in class, but we also learned more about racism and segregation today.”
Dixon says the Tour for Humanity education surrounding the Holocaust was more in-depth than what she had previously learned.
“I learned more about what happened,” she said. “I learned how it got to that point and all the different camps that they had.”
Hopewell says he appreciated the “different” learning experience.
“I liked how there were different theatre-like screens,” he said. “It was interactive and informative.”
Dixon says the bus environment was less distracting than a normal classroom setting.
“It made it a little more intriguing," she said.
Dixon says the workshop gave her a new perspective on the topics she had been learning about in class.
“It gave a good representation of the number of people involved with the Holocaust and the casualties,” she said.
Hopewell said the experience made the topics discussed more imaginable.
“Daniella said she works with holocaust survivors,” she explained. “Learning from someone with that connection made it feel more personal.”
The mobile classroom will be in the Orillia area for the rest of the week before spending the remainder of the school year in the Toronto area.