Addressing Injustices
Addressing Injustices
Addressing Injustices brings together teachers and youth to read, write, make art, and change the world.

Remaking Maus: 2015

In 2015, eighth grade students from Delta Alternative Senior School and teacher candidates from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto read Art Spiegelman's (1986) graphic memoir Maus. Maus is a graphic retelling of Spiegelman’s relationship to his father, Vladek, who shares his story of surviving the Holocaust. Much as the book documents Spiegelman’s struggles to come to terms with being the child of a Holocaust survivor, the students and teachers grappled with questions about identity, memory, empathy, and the enduring legacies of historical trauma.


What We Did

We began with a silent conversation in response to panels and excerpts from Maus. This allowed us to generate questions, like the one above, that became touchstones for our collective inquiry.

Those questions led us to explore the history of the Holocaust alongside our own family histories, just as Spiegelman does in Maus. Students interviewed family members to learn where and how their loved ones lived during World War II, surfacing the cultural and historical legacies that informed their awareness and experience of the Holocaust. We used these histories as catalysts for investigating core issues in the text and contemporary society, including the persistence of racism and anti-Semitism, witnessing and the role of the witness, and the tension between empathy and Holocaust denial.

We explored these themes through various artistic engagements and creative responses. We partnered with the Art Gallery of Ontario, whose special exhibition of Spiegelman’s works, CO-MIX: A Retrospective, allowed us to explore the craft of comics art. Students chose panels from Maus that elicited a strong emotional response in them and crafted paintings, featured below, inspired by Belgian artist Pierre Alechinsky. They also constructed multi-modal and multi-sensory arts projects that captured their ongoing inquiries into the Holocaust and its contemporary resonances.

What it Looked Like: Big Paper, Visiting The Art Gallery of Ontario, Project-planning, Art Panels in Process

 Creative Responses: Maus Art Panels

Students’ Creative Responses

What Participants Said

“Hopefully other kids can learn from our work since the Holocaust is sometimes a touchy subject that teachers and parents avoid. I just hope that our work can maybe help break through that barrier. I don't really care if people like the work I did. I just want them to understand what the point of it was all about.” - Student, Delta Alternative Senior School

”I really enjoyed the whole experience. I had never read [the book] before and I thought it was a great book and really emotional and thought-provoking. It was cool for teachers and students to all be working together, taught by other teachers. Lastly, I really liked hearing everyone's take on the book and the projects and bouncing ideas off of each other. I thought that just made the experience so much more educational. I learned a lot.” - Student, Delta Alternative Senior School

“I read Maus before in Grade 10. And then, reading it again, I was able to look into it in a different way. I appreciated the risks that we took, particularly in the choices that [students] made, and the projects [they’ve] done. It was very good to see what learners are capable of doing when given the chance.” - Teacher Candidate, OISE — University of Toronto

“I had first read Maus a couple of years ago, and I had also learned very basic info on World War 2, but for some reason I hadn't connected them. And, I really connected the story—the Holocaust and World War 2—especially with our project, back to today, and to me and finding out where my family was during the war, and that there [are] still these people out there. It was scary. And it was just, it's not being distant.” - Teacher Candidate, OISE — University of Toronto

”I really appreciated seeing how different all the projects were. And, how many different ways, how many different methods everyone used to engage with the text, and how different the products were, and how they were all amazing in their own way.” - Teacher Candidate, OISE — University of Toronto


Simon, R., Evis, S., Walkland, T., Kalan, A., & Baer, P. (2016). Navigating the “delicate relationship between empathy and critical distance”: Youth literacies, social justice and arts-based inquiry. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 15(3), pp. 430-449.



Facing History’s approach heightens students’ understanding of racism, religious intolerance, and prejudice; increases students’ ability to relate history to their own lives; and promotes greater understanding of their roles and responsibilities in a democracy.

Facing History Canada provides educators with the tools, strategies, and resources for students to explore themes of prejudice, judgment and justice, and civic responsibility.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum offers resources on antisemitism, and Holocaust denial and distortion.

Voices into Action is a free online educational program that features tools for teaching and learning about human rights, including horrific events in human history like the Holocaust.