Other kids may be lounging around on March Break, but students from North York’s Crestwood Preparatory College are spending part of their vacation participating in a “first-of-its-kind” cross-Canada social media initiative.
Called the Twitter Book Club, the project will see Crestwood students join with students from Barrie, Ontario, Lloydminster, Alberta, Warren, Manitoba and Gander, Newfoundland.
The grades 10, 11 and 12 students will read a book called Survival Kit, written by North York Holocaust survivor Zuzana Sermer, and, along the way, tweet their thoughts and observations as part of a real-time conversation.
Teachers can pose questions for students to ponder and tweet about as they read and can follow the students’ comments.
“I told them it’s like doing a book report one tweet at a time,” said Scott Masters, the head of social studies at Crestwood, near York Mills Road and the Don Valley Parkway.
“I think it’s an experimental idea. I think it will look at teaching and social media in a new way. I think it’s an idea with great potential and the wave of the future. This (social media) is where these kids live so re-purpose it.”
The initiative comes from Survival Kit publisher Azrieli Foundation, which supports a number of Jewish educational, scientific, medical and other programs.
The month-long project, believed to be the first of its kind among Canadian schools, began this week.
Even if they have vacation plans, Masters has encouraged the students to bring the book along with them and read a few pages every day.
“Some of them may be tweeting from beaches in Florida,” he joked.
In December, Masters won a 2012 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching for his Oral History Project, which has students interviewing Second World War veterans and Holocaust survivors in the classroom and in the community.
At Crestwood, the Twitter Book Club will mainly include students in Grade 10 Canadian history, but Grade 12 history students and other students will also participate. In addition to Masters, history teacher Jason Hawkins is organizing the project at the school.
Katherine Charness, a Grade 12 Crestwood student, is looking forward to participating in the project.
“I’ve never tweeted for marks before so it should be interesting,” the 17-year-old said.
“I’m really excited to hear others students’ perspectives. I think this is big because it takes (learning) to a whole other level by using Twitter and social media.”
Charness is re-reading Survival Kit, which she and other Crestwood students read as part of Masters’ Oral History Project, which included interviewing Sermer.
The project will wrap up in early April when the Twitter Book Club students tweet with Sermer. She could not be reached to comment on her thoughts about her book being used for the project.
Survival Kit is Sermer’s moving autobiography of survival in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Hungary during the Second World War and the daring and innovative strategies she and her fiance, and future husband, Arthur Sermer used to live through the horror.
“A few miracles and a little bit of luck,” is how Masters describes the Sermers’ ability to survive.
He called the Twitter Book Club an innovative project that uses social media to connect students to history through a personal story of courage and survival.