SUMMIT, NJ - LEGOs are fun. Learning about history, kindness and compassion is important. Combining both of those dynamics creates a truly meaningful educational experience, one which Oak Knoll co-ed elementary school fifth and sixth graders immersed themselves in when they used 70,000 LEGO blocks to build a replica of a village in France which saved 3,500 Jews during the Holocaust.
As part of the peace and appreciation unit that includes highlighting the importance of compassion for others, students built the 400-square-foot replica of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, under the direction of architect Stephen W. Schwartz.
Le Chambon, an isolated Huguenot town, along 11 others surrounding it, saved 3,500 Jews during the Holocaust.
Paul Kutner, Upper School World Languages Chair and Director of Global Learning at Oak Knoll, spoke to the students about Le Chambon.
“The day is an amazing way to teach about something very solemn and very important while still being a joyous educational experience,” Kutner said. “The students were able to understand the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon by making this village come alive.
“It’s one thing to have pictures and stories of the buildings, but it’s another to take a tour of the village and see how all the people living in the village worked together,” Kutner added. “It allowed the students to see how the location of each building played a major role in this story.”
Kutner is the chief researcher of the exhibit "Conspiracy of Goodness", about Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, currently on display at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at CUNY-Queensborough Community College in Bayside, Queens.
Dr. Michele Dahl, Lower School religion coordinator, lauded the project as an opportunity for meaningful collaboration between Upper and Lower school educators.
“It was also extra special that so many parents and grandparents worked on the teams with their children and grandchildren,” Dahl said.
Other special guests included French exchange students hosted by Oak Knoll and Delbarton families who came from Lycée Sacré Cœur in Yssingeaux, France, a community that is just four towns away from Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.