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Humble High School student’s butterflies memorialize children who perished in the Holocaust




Humble High School Art and History students participated in The Butterfly Project, a program that merges the two subjects for an introspective Holocaust learning activity. The Holocaust Museum Houston began the program 20 years ago with the goal to create butterflies for each of the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. This global effort was met and continues to educate and inspire. Butterflies collected from all over the world are on exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston from Feb.12 to July 31, 2016. At the exhibit, Humble High School students are featured in a video that chronicles the complete learning and creative process behind the butterflies.


The Butterfly Project is based on the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a collection of works of art and poetry by Jewish children in the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. Where known, the fate of each young author is listed.


In student-led groups at Humble High School, collaborators brainstormed to gather their knowledge of the Holocaust and then facilitators gave Holocaust facts that put this tragedy into greater focus.


“The Holocaust wasn’t inevitable. Those who weren’t being persecuted and didn’t believe in what was happening allowed it to happen by not saying no,” Dr. Mary Lee Webeck, Director of Education at Holocaust Museum Houston, said. “For what issues in our world today do you feel led to stand up against?”  

In the exercise, students were given a poem from I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a paper butterfly cutout, and craft supplies. Students decorated their butterfly based on the themes, feelings, and imagery evoked from the poem. Through channeling their artistic expression to memorialize the poet, a deeper connection was formed between the young reader and author. After all the butterflies were collected and hung on strings in a colorful and lively display, the students learned the poet’s fate. The string was cut if the poet did not survive the Holocaust.


“At the end only 9 of the 37 butterflies were left, which was very eye-opening,” Nadia Williams, a junior art student and group facilitator, said. “Having this visual experience, I feel even more attached to the Holocaust and other injustices around the world.”


From bottom left: Taraney Vigil, Jennifer Peralta, Jailene Meija, Katlyn Hill, Zaria Rogan 2nd row: Sarah Mayes, Nadia Williams, Daniela Zapata, Jasmine Gonzalez 3rd row: Emily Williams, Rhoda Oladapo, Kaitlin Vaughn Standing row: Fatoumata Diallo, Jazmine Arriaga, Tre Staples, Kayla Jenkins, Furqan (Frankie) Riyaz, Joel Osegueda, Andrew Tisdale, Pilar Games, Emily Nelson, Bryan Moreno
HHS students who participated in The Butterfly Project lesson plan were invited to a special exhibition in honor of Holocaust Museum Houston’s 20th anniversary at the Houston Galleria on March 11. The group of about 30 students helped HMH launch a touring display featuring a variety of butterflies. The Galleria will host the six display cases and two display windows for three months before the cases begin traveling to venues around Houston until March 2017. 

During Breakfast with the Butterflies, students created butterflies and wrote notes about their personal wishes for humanity. These wishes were added to the collection of wishes written by students across the HHS campus and placed on the Wishing Wall. Later, students took a trip to the Holocaust Museum Houston to listen to survivors and families affected by the tragedy.



The project has drawn local and international media attention.  


HHS Principal Donna Ullrich spoke with the Observer Newspaper about the project’s deep impact on student learning.


“The thing I think is the most important is for high school students to be able to connect with what they do at school with events in the world,” Ullrich said. “This took our students from the arts through history through what is happening today in our world. This gives our students another venue to express their thoughts and feelings on the Holocaust through art.”



Several students also contributed to the Observer’s “Humble High IB students let creativity take flight with ‘The Butterfly Project’.” IB seniors Fatoumata Diallo and Rhoda Oladapo reflected on the project’s connection to global child welfare conditions today.


“To me, that fact that 1.5 million children perished; we can’t forget about that because it is such a high number,” Diallo said. “It’s coming back, even today, there are instances of that in other countries so we can’t act like it didn’t happen. We need to keep the memory strong for this generation to know about the (Holocaust) and ways to prevent it from every happening again. It’s our generation that needs to stand up and say this is not right, this is not OK.”


“This is important because these days, we’re trying to fight for the rights of children all around the world,” Oladapo said. “Looking back at what happened (during the Holocaust,) it is so inhumane for someone to go through that. I hope this project brings back the memories of the children killed and that, who survived; that is why I wanted to do this project. We are commemorating the children; we need to make sure this never happens again.”


KPRC Channel 2 reporter Haley Hernandez interviewed Taraney Vigil, Tony Staples, and Nadia Williams to explore their views of The Butterfly Project. Click here to view the story.

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