JACKSON TWP — Babies and toddlers are joyful, said Kyra Fazio as she brushed yellow underglaze onto her white ceramic butterfly.
“We're painting it yellow to symbolize joy and happiness,” said Kyra, 14, a Ryan Gloyer Middle School eighth-grader. “The person I got was a 3-year-old ... I was really sad that they were so young and they had to die; there's no reason it should have happened to a toddler who didn't have a chance to live out his life.”
Shmi Adinun was born in 1938 and died at the age of 3 in the Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, at Dakovo, in the Savska district, in the Hrvatska region of Yugoslavia in 1941. The names of his mother and father and the place where he was born are unknown, Kyra said.
Kyra was one of the Ryan Gloyer Middle School students on the Condor Team who painted 72 ceramic butterflies Tuesday to memorialize children who perished in the Holocaust.
The work was done for The Butterfly Project, a nonprofit organization that uses lessons of the Holocaust to educate about the dangers of hatred and bigotry through the painting of ceramic butterflies.
“Hitler killed everyone, Jews, people that were disabled. I think it's important that we honor them,” Kyra said.
After students studied the Holocaust in the fall, librarian Angie Logero asked if the Condor Team wanted to extend their learning by participating in the painting project after Logero learned about it from a teacher in Shaler Township.
She then received a grant from the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh for the interdisciplinary project that included the school's art and social studies teachers, Logero said.
Students learn how butterflies are beautiful and unique and how they relate to people and their differences, she said.
“The butterflies are a symbol of hope — hope for a brighter future where there is no prejudice and people aren't judged,” Logero said. “We look at everybody as unique individuals who have feelings and that all need to be treated with respect and dignity.”
The two-day project included a lesson and poem from the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.
The lesson covered an overview about Jewish people, Judaism and anti-Semitism — hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.
Students learned about the persecution and genocide of Jews and other targeted groups in the Holocaust and saw maps and locations of concentration camps, as well as pictures showing how the Jewish population was separated with the Star of David and placed in the camps.
Each butterfly came with a biography of a child from the Holocaust, said Jennifer Cenna, a social studies teacher.
Cenna discussed the meaning of colors with her students so they could relate to the person they were representing through their butterflies.
The project allows students to develop personal connections to history, she said.
“That's really what history is, trying to get them to relate to something bigger than themselves,” Cenna said. “That's my hope, that they feel a connection.”
Stan Zimmerman, an art instructor, taught students about the glazes used for painting.
Zimmerman will put a transparent ceramic glaze over the students' finished butterflies and fire them in the kiln.
Then he plans to glue them to a piece of plywood and arrange them around quotes from Holocaust survivors to create a permanent mural in the school.
“I hope for more understanding of what people went through in the Holocaust,” Zimmerman said. “When anybody has a little more tolerance and understanding of someone else's life, that's always a good thing.”
Andrew Kalinoski stroked shades of red, purple and blue onto his butterfly to memorialize Paul Lorintz, who was born in April 1934 to Hermine and Marton and who lived in Kisvarda in the Szabolcs district in Hungary.
Paul died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. His age and the date when he died have not been recorded.
Andrew's colors reflected the different feelings a person could feel throughout the Holocaust and how Paul would have felt when he was exterminated, Andrew said.
“Scared, like he would know what was going to happen eventually after time went on,” said Andrew, 14, about Paul's feelings. Millions of people died violently because the Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were superior to Jews, he said.
“So that it doesn't happen again,” he said about the reason for learning about the Holocaust. “I feel like (the school's future mural) is going to impact the world and show how many people died throughout the Holocaust.”