The Butterfly Project

Last night I attended the opening of The Butterfly Project at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden in Austin, Texas. I was deeply moved by this incredible Holocaust exhibit made by school children in Austin, honoring the memory of the 1.5 million children who were murdered under Nazi rule. My congratulations go out to Beth McDaniel, a member of our Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Committee and coordinator of the project. Below is an explanation of the project. I encourage everyone to visit this moving work of art on display throughout the month of April (another “opening” of the project is April 18, if you want to meet Beth).

Of the thousands of butterflies on display, this one caught my eye and took my breath away:


IN MEMORY OF THE 1.5 MILLION CHILDREN KILLED IN THE HOLOCAUST…thousands of Austin area elementary, middle school and high school students created handmade butterflies as a part of Ballet Austin’s Light/ The Holocaust and Humanity Project.  Each student (4th-12th grade) read a biography such as the ones you see here, on a child who perished at the hands of the Nazis.  The idea was to personalize the victims…for the students to realize that these weren’t just a group of people in a different part of the world in a different time.  But rather, these were individuals, each beautiful and special in their own ways…each with his or her own interests, talents, and life story.  Many of the students came to realize the things they had in common with some of the victims.  The students then designed their butterflies with that child victim in mind.  Then, various classroom conversations ensued on topics such as diversity, tolerance, remembrance and issues relating to contemporary genocide.

Younger children engaged in a “Celebration of Diversity” curriculum, in which students were paired up, and together explored those things they had in common with each other and those things that were different from each other.  Those younger children then designed their butterflies for their partners.

44 Austin schools and organizations participated with a total of more than 10,500 butterflies.  Many students wrote messages to the child.  One school included Six Word Memoirs on the back of each butterfly, such as “You deserved a better life, Judith” or “Fifteen years is way too young” or “I like sports and music too”.  Some schools took the project further by developing other curriculum around the topic.  One school wrote letters to their lawmakers in support of genocide prevention legislation.  Another school recorded a video letter to Congress.  Several of the schools read Elie Weisel’s novel, Night or other Holocaust-related literature.

The construction of the exhibit was also a community-wide collaborative effort.  The project sponsors dedicated their time and donated materials.  Crews of students attached butterflies for several days.  Butterflies were attached with bobby pins to preserve them for their next exhibit.  This exhibit could not have happened without these generous sponsors and volunteers.

The butterflies will be on exhibit at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden for the month of April.  Following the exhibit at the Umlauf, the butterflies will make their journey to Houston to be a part of the Houston Holocaust Museum’s 2013 exhibit of 1.5 million butterflies.  The project was inspired by the poem The Butterfly, by Pavel Friedman, written while he lived in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.  Pavel was later deported to Auschwitz, where he died at age 23 in 1944.

Which Pencil Will You Choose?

Staying organized is a challenge I have been working on for a long time. I am getting much better thanks to the professional advice I gather. Some of the best advice is from my friend, Helene Segura, CEO of Living Order San Antonio Here is a bit of advice on how to start your day using a great analogy…picking a pencil:

What Does Your Pencil Choice Say About You?

Helene Segura, M.A. Ed, CPO®

CEO of LivingOrder® San Antonio

Every day is exciting for me because I get to coach an individual or group on organizing and productivity and help them curb the stress that they’re under. Sometimes, though, I get a request to return to my past life as a teacher, and each time I learn something new from observing the students.

I get a call every year to conduct a workshop series at a particular high school with students who have been removed from their standard classroom environments. They have been invited to leave their home campuses for a variety of reasons – misbehavior, truancy or arrests. The choices and mistakes they’ve made have caused them to fall behind in their credits by one year or more. My job is to get them focused for their exit exams and help them with decision-making skills along the way. In a nutshell, I try to rewire how their brains think and plan for life so they can become productive citizens.

We have the same routine at the beginning of each one of my sessions. The students pick up their activity packets and borrow a pencil and highlighter to use for the class period. It struck me the other day when I watched how the students chose their pencils that their choices reflected who they are. Those who chose their pencils based on the sharpness of the writing tip were the same students who were working hard to make changes in their lives and get back on track. The students who chose their pencils based on the condition of the eraser were the same students who were fumbling aimlessly in life. They were already planning to make mistakes and erase the mess. Their counterparts, on the other hand, chose based on the tool they needed to complete their work; if they wound up needing an eraser later, they knew where to get one.

The attitude you have in your approach to projects will determine your success. If you start every day prepping for your tasks and telling yourself you will complete them, then you will. But if you start every day with the expectation that you won’t meet the standards, well, you’ll do just that.

So, how will you choose your pencil: by the sharpness of the tip or the size of the eraser?


Organizing and productivity expert Helene Segura helps stressed out folks – especially entrepreneurs and educators – regain control of their chaotic living and working spaces by teaching clients how to understand their core issues causing disorganization and thereby prevent it in the future.  She is a Certified Professional Organizer® and Certified Productive Environment Specialist™ and has provided coaching for clients as varied as authors, attorneys, physicians, artists, students, teachers, domestic engineers and business owners. As the owner of LivingOrder® San Antonio, Helene also conducts informative organizing workshops for larger groups such as non-profits, schools and businesses, and serves on the trailblazing team providing organizing help online at The Clutter Diet.  She has been a featured organizing expert in publications such as Woman’s Day Magazine, as well as on Fox, CBS, and NBC affiliates. Helene is the author of Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom.



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