English II students explore the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum through virtual reality


Lydia Roseman

Looking into a virtual reality headset, sophomore Dyani May takes a virtual tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in her English II class Sept. 17. This was English teacher Casey Holland’s first time using VR in his classroom and was pleased with his students’ reaction to the tour. “It was different and exciting and fun,” Holland said. “The kids thought it was neat. When we started off, they were taking pictures of each other with their phones, but as the material we were talking about got more in depth, you could hear them saying ‘Oh wow,’ and hear them having some really good conversations with one another.”

No airfare, hotel, transportation or museum pass was necessary for students in English II to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. In fact, not a single school absence was required.

Instead, Casey Holland’s English II students entered the museum virtually, in the school library, to prepare for an upcoming reader’s workshop regarding the events surrounding the Holocaust. with the help of librarian Lauren Reusch.

“In the past week, we’ve been talking about the historical events that led up to the Holocaust. Today, I wanted to give a broad overview and a rough timeline of the events during the Holocaust, so as they get into their books, these events aren’t something new,” Holland said. “I think it’s so important that we realize the danger of not sharing those stories and the importance of being kind. That’s what we do in my classroom. We understand the significance of what evil looks like and being good people and being good readers.”

I think it’s so important that we realize the danger of not sharing these stories and the importance of being kind,”

— English teacher Casey Holland

Though the VR headsets made some students motion sick, the English II students enjoyed the tour.

“It was cool that we didn’t have to move or get up; we could stay in our seats and see everything,” sophomore Betsy Weaver said. “One of the rooms was filled with pictures of cities and the families living in them, and in one of the cities, he told us that there was only one girl and her dad that survived. It’s good to learn about this because there’s no way it can happen again if we know how it started and why it started.”

Sophomore Dyani May found the experience fascinating and recognizes the importance of studying this topic and others like it.

“I liked looking at all the pictures, but it was really sad looking at all the pictures of everyone who died and how there were so few survivors,” May said. “It’s important because there are Jewish kids in our school, so I think it’s good to get a background of where they come from and their families.”