PRESS RELEASE May 31, 2001
Open Heart, Open Mind Grant Award

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the Atlantic County ETTC are pleased to announce a grant award of $145,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of 12 awards given out of 58 applications to the Schools for a New Millennium program, and the only award in the state of New Jersey.

The goal of the Schools for a New Millennium program is to engage a critical mass of educators in sustained study of core subjects in collaboration with professors at local colleges and universities The project must include innovative technology, transform curriculum and reach all students. Applications are evaluated on the quality of the humanities content, the effective integration of educational technology and active collaboration with humanities scholars.

The "Open Heart, Open Mind" project brings together teachers in grades 5 to 8 from Somers Point Schools and Mullica Township Middle School. Both school districts have identified Holocaust and genocide education as a priority for curriculum reform. The two communities are very different in their ethnic makeup, economic structure and history, and their needs and interests in terms of Holocaust and genocide education are complementary. Both districts have a strong history of collaboration with each other and with the Atlantic County ETTC and the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The two-year project provides a systematic process for teachers, students and community residents to deepen their understanding of the Holocaust and its relevance to how communities function today. Core activities include two private sessions of graduate courses in Holocaust and genocide education customized for the two schools; hands-on professional development in technology tools; a monthly discussion-group series for teachers, parents and community members; and action-research projects by teachers that build on the strengths within the two communities. The project culminates in curricular reform and a pilot project on curriculum implementation at both schools. The project includes three uses of technology: distance learning via high-speed interactive videoconferencing, creation and classroom integration of relevant web resources and effective classroom use of educational software.

The Project Directors are Dr. Paul Lyons, Professor of Social Work at Stockton College, and Ms. Anu Vedantham, Director of the Atlantic County ETTC. Prof. Chris Long will be the Associate Director for the project, and eight master teachers will lead grant activities for their colleagues.

Grant activities begin with a reception on June 11 from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at Stockton. Summer activities include a graduate course The Holocaust and the American Experience taught by Dr. Lyons and an in-depth technology training series.

The graduate course examines the ways in which Americans have treated those who are different: the indigenous peoples, Africans (during slavery), other immigrant groups such as the Irish, the Chinese, the Japanese (especially during World War II) and the Jews. It examines human capacity to succumb to genocidal evils as well as potential, also rooted in historical legacy, to remain faithful to the values of tolerance, diversity and unity. The Atlantic County ETTC will provide 30 hours of hands-on technology training for middle school curriculum integration. Topics will include digital cameras, web-page design, "bookmark tour" of sites for Holocaust and genocide education, searching effectively for Internet resources, web-based and interactive video conferencing and digital video. Teachers will receive stipends for participation in professional development activities.

During the two school years, teachers, parents and community members will participate in a monthly discussion group series (conducted by videoconference to facilitate attendance at both districts) that provides diverse perspectives on Holocaust and genocide issues across the globe. Presentations will feature the Spanish Community Center, the Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton, the Community Justice Institute, the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Stockton faculty from several academic divisions. A concert of original choral music is also planned.

"The response to the grant award has been phenomenal so far," said Donna Mohr, Curriculum Supervisor at Somers Point Schools, "Teachers at all levels of seniority are excited about this grant and how its activities can improve our middle school curriculum."

"NEH grants foster study of American civilization and of the world's many cultural traditions," said NEH Chairman William R. Ferris. "NEH-funded projects have a powerful cultural impact by helping to discover, preserve and tell the many stories that comprise the human experience."

For more information, please call Anu Vedantham at (609) 652-4931 or Dr. Paul Lyons at (609) 652-4627.