An inspiration for our times

31st May 1996 at 01:00
The first national Anne Frank day will celebrate her enduring legacy of courage and humanity. Reva Klein finds that even young children have something to learn from her example

Anne Frank would have been 67 years old on June 12. Instead, she died three months before her 16th birthday in Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

More than any other individual, the raven-haired Jewish girl has become a symbol of the Holocaust and of the indomitability of the human spirit. Through her diary, first published by her father Otto in 1947, she came to personify the suffering of her people as well as their capacity to spiritually transcend that suffering.

But despite her status as icon she was no saint, which is why she endures as such a vital, attractive personality for millions of people around the world. Anne was a teenager who, despite her determination to see the good in all people, could - in the time-honoured tradition of teenagers everywhere - be a complete wind-up to her family and fellow fugitives.

When her birthday comes around in a few weeks, for the first time ever there will be a structured programme with which to celebrate her short life and her profoundly humane, poignant view of the world. The Anne Frank Educational Trust UK, supported by Penguin Children's Books and Addison Wesley Longman, have put together a pack of resources and activities for pupils and teachers at all key stages to use on what has been designated the first national Anne Frank Day.

This is not an exercise in eulogising Anne. Rather, it is seizing the opportunity to explore themes throughout the curriculum with which she is identified, with a special emphasis on pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. But while Anne Frank is no stranger to secondary school pupils, her appearance at primary level is something new and, for some teachers, will be surprising - if not disconcerting.

For Christine Thomas, head of juniors at St Martins School for Girls in Solihull, it is neither. She has used Anne Frank at key stage 2 in the past, but will be drawing on the pack for guidance on June 12 because "it dovetails beautifully with the ideas and concepts that the national curriculum is asking us to look at, such as beliefs and attitudes, through a young girl with whom pupils can identify."

The essence of the pack is that teachers can use it as a springboard for ideas, adapting it to fit the needs and ethos of their particular school. In the assembly plan for infant classes, the emphasis is on exploring friendship, using Anne's special relationship with her diary as the point of departure. From there, children are asked to think about the difficult circumstances into which Anne and her family were forced and to relate their unhappiness to children who may suffer cruelty or unhappiness today. The pack suggests a prayer that asks God to "help me find a true friend who is good to me, someone that I can help to feel good. Perhaps you could be my friend too. I could talk to you, just as Anne Frank talked to Kitty".

Classroom activities for all the key stages are laid out according to curriculum areas, with headings for learning objectives, core, support, extension and assessment focus. For example, in key stage 2 history, it is suggested that pupils use the diary, documents, photographs and time lines to trace the major events in Anne's life. For technologyinformation technology, artmusic, pupils can make a three-dimensional model of the Franks' secret hiding place, they can draw Anne as she would look today if she had lived or suggest the kind of music she would have liked to listen to as a teenager in the 1940s.

Secondary school students, among other things, have the opportunity to analyse examples of Nazi propoganda from the perspective of prejudices of the time and address the question of whether those prejudices still exist today in KS3 history and, in KS4 English, discuss the part played by posters, stereotyping and caricatures in inciting racial hatred.

Along with calling upon schools to use the pack for assemblies and lessons in the run-up to and on the day of June 12, there will also be a schools charter competition. Primary and secondary schools are invited to submit charters addressing problems of racism, discrimination and bullying and supporting an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding, all themes that Anne wrote about in her diary. The patron of the day and one of the judges for the competition is children's television and radio presenter Diane Louise Jordan.

The success of this initiative will depend on the teachers using the pack. Michael Hussey, co-author and member of the Anne Frank Educational Trust is former chief inspector for the London Borough of Southwark. He is convinced of its educational potential with even the youngest of children. "My experience is that chldren are never too young to have experienced unfairness or injustice through bullying, being picked upon or slighted in a range of ways," he says. "We've seen too often the effects on young children of intolerance and what happens when we remain onlookers or ignore it. Through this resource, we are putting these issues into terms that children have experienced themselves. It is our aim that this will make them reflect on the story of Anne Frank in a way that will help them to live more tolerantly and accepting of others in our multi racial, multi cultural society, to make them aware of the positive things, as Anne was, by resisting the negative."

Copies of the pack can be ordered from the Anne Frank Educational Trust UK, PO Box 432, Bushey, Herts WD2 1QU, priced Pounds 5 incl pp

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