In response to the visit of a diverse group of 15 international students from 16-19 years old (Youth for Europe project) to the Anne Frank House, Barry van Driel and his colleagues set up the “memory walk’’, which has been developed to give students the opportunity to examine the past and remembrance of that past in a proactive critical manner, to raise awareness, foster a sense of belonging, build social skills and competences. During the ‘’memory walk’’ students receive the assignment to visit a monument or informal migrant leader in their city and to interview people passing by or informal migrant leaders. Once they return to the class, their job is to critically process all of the information and to present this to the class which allows the class also to profit from the research that has been done and to transform perspectives on history and remembrance in the classroom.
The Education team of the Anne Frank House developed and piloted the “Memory Walk” to stimulate proactive history learning in a city or neighbourhood for students between ages 13 and 18 years old. This method could also be used by schools for students in the autistic spectrum. This only means that the practice needs to be adjusted to the needs of the students. The practice has not been officially used for these students yet. This plan is still under construction.
The “Memory Walk” exists out of three parts, which are the preparations for both teacher and the students, the implementation in the city, processing and presenting the results. The time-frame for the project “Memory Walk” is around 7 lessons.
When the teacher decides to implement the “Memory Walk” in the classroom, preparations have to be done first. The first thing is to decide whether the city provides the classroom with enough monuments. If this is not the case, an alternative could be doing research about migrant communities. Second thing is to prepare the class for the students. This means doing research about all of the monuments or informal migrant leaders you as a teacher would like to include. This could also mean establishing contact via email or phone with migrant organisations or leaders. This could take up to 2 to 3 lessons of 50 minutes.
When introducing the topic to the class, small groups consisting out of 4-5 students have to be made and monuments or informal migrant leaders have to be appointed to the groups. The choice could of course also be made by the students themselves, depending on the situation.
Then the preparations for the students will start. They will get an interview training by the teacher, which will take 1-2 lessons of 50 minutes. During this training they will learn how to ask responsible questions, how to listen carefully and not interrupt their interviewee.
The next lesson will be implemented in the city. All student groups will go to the city accompanied by a teacher or parent who will assist them in the city and keep an eye on them. The goal in the city is to observe the monument, take photos and interview people passing by about their knowledge and opinion about the monument. If possible, the interviewees could also be filmed or recorded. When doing research about the history of a migrant community, the goal is to interview an informal migrant leader and to take photos if possible. This will take approximately a whole morning or afternoon.
During the project one student is appointed as the leader of the group and one person is responsible for the report and presentation which is produced by contributions of the entire group.
In the final phase, the students will make the report on the monument and also present this in front of the class. Afterwards the teacher will give feedback on the findings. The other students in the classroom can jump in with questions or comments, which eventually can lead towards a group discussion. This phase also includes 1 to 2 lessons of 50 minutes.
Obstacles and lessons learned
The team encountered several obstacles in using the “Memory Walk” throughout international context. This was first of all introducing the project to unexperienced teachers and students who were not introduced yet to project-based work, field trips and independent research. This resulted in teachers and students being overwhelmed and not really able to participate in the “Memory Walk”. Another thing is that the project time-consuming, because it has 3 different phases: preparation, implementation and processing. Teachers and students, but also schools in general should be open to the idea of these time-consuming phases.
Another thing is that monuments or informal migrant leaders should be present in the city or village where students live, otherwise the “Memory Walk” cannot be used as an effective method.
Permission must be given by all parents. If children are not allowed by their parents to go to the city or visit a migrant leader because of certain political views for example, this could also be an obstacle. Solution to this problem is that these children could stay in school, do their research online and present this to the class.
Also the consent of the interviewees could be problematic, if they do not give permission to share this material in the classroom.
The project has developed throughout the years in Dutch and international contexts in schools with diverse backgrounds and diverse students. A few lessons have been learned which deal with the interviews and interview trainings. The key is to spend more time on the interview trainings for the students, then the quality of the interviews will also improve. On top of that more attention needs to go out to the group dynamic. Inclusiveness needs to be stimulated during the interviews, so that everyone will get the chance to ask their questions. Allow not only the verbally strong children who are dominant during the interview, but also the others to ask their questions.
The effect of the practice
The visible results of the project were that students became more motivated during class, they wanted to acquire more knowledge about their cities and history. A sense of belonging in society was also fostered, awareness of multiperspectivity in history grew and students went home with the stories they had learned and started talking to their parents about it.
Recently Barry van Driel started developing an instrument to officially measure the impact the “Memory Walk” has on students. He developed an anonymous questionnaire with specific questions concerning national history and the monuments. The anonymous questionnaire will take place before and after the “Memory Walk”, which will allow us to see if perspectives have been transformed.
About the interviewee
Barry van Driel is the Secretary General of the International Association for Intercultural Education, and the International Director for Teacher Training and Curriculum Development at the Anne Frank House. Since joining the Anne Frank House in 2002, he has conducted many interviews in various countries relating to xenophobia, racism and discrimination today.
Since 2002, he has been the editor in chief of the journal Intercultural Education as well as the Secretary General of the International Association for Intercultural Education. As Secretary General, he conducted interviews on the educational situation of immigrants and minority groups. He has also written several books, including Variant Lifestyles (1986), Confronting Islamophobia in Educational Practice, Challenging Homophobia.
Background to the project
The project was initiated by the Anne Frank House. The Anne Frank House had a subsidy for a diverse group of 15 young people 16-19 years old (Youth for Europe project) who would visit the Netherlands, Anne frank House. They would stay 8 days in the Netherlands. The goal was to learn more about Dutch History and specifically the history of Amsterdam. The colleagues of the AFH thought it would be better to do some proactive learning instead of giving them a few lectures. The plan was to let the group discover the city and the history by observing the monuments and interviewing people passing by. The assignment was followed up by a presentation and a 3-hour discussion on the contested monuments and different opinions. The Anne Frank House decided afterwards to see whether Dutch schools would also like to try out the “Memory Walk”. Now the method is used internationally by local partners in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Guatemala, Italy and more.
A manual has been made for the teacher to activate the students before the assignment. The manual includes mini-assignments such as: create your own ideal monument.
For more information check the Anne Frank House Website and Youtube Channel:
Written by Shanice de Witte (EUROCLIO) based on an online skype- interview with Barry van Driel (Anne Frank House) in The Hague on 10-07-2017.