Gurnee students meet author, study about the Holocaust

Author and former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Forbes magazine Fern Schumer Chapman visited Viking Middle School in Gurnee recently.

She has written five Junior Library Guild award-winning books, all of which touch on her mother's story of surviving during the Holocaust. Students were grateful to read her book "Three Stars in the Night Sky" as an entire school and have the opportunity to correspond with her.

Schumer Chapman presented to each grade level over two days and was interviewed by the students to learn about her writing process.

The students read the book aloud in their language arts classes. They explored where their family came from and learned the story of two young refugees - Gerda Katz and Edith Westerfield (Chapman's mother) - as they escaped Nazi Germany and traveled to America alone.

The book ignited the curiosity in Viking's students as they learned about what the world was like throughout the 1930s and '40s. The students were shocked to learn how Jewish people were treated during this time period. They learned the importance of being an "upstander" as opposed to a bystander.

In social studies, students explored time periods where child refugees were trying to seek safety and find a new home, such as the Potato Famine, Sudan Civil War, Syrian Civil War and Central American and Mexican immigration.

As the students learned about child refugees and how this is still a problem today, they expressed gratitude for their families and the lives that they have.

In art class, the students learned about artist and activist Gunther Demnig. He has installed more than 70,000 stones across Europe, forcing people to stumble on history and not forget the innocent lives that were lost during the Holocaust.

In music class, the students learned about Francesco Lotoro, who has dedicated his life to restoring music that was written during the Holocaust.

In drama class, the students watched TED Talks with Holocaust survivors and learned interviewing techniques as well as questions to ask an author.

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