Life in a Jar Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'Life in a Jar' is the tale of Irena Sendler and the high school students who brought her heroic story out of the shadows. These discussion questions are designed to help you guide your high schoolers through the key players and events of the book.

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer

The creative nonfiction book Life in a Jar tells the enthralling story of Irena Sendler and the students who crafted a play about her life--Liz Cambers, Megan Stewart, and Sabrina Coons. Use these discussion questions to help students process the book, its historical context, and the life lessons that can be learned from these gripping stories.

You may want to utilize these questions in a whole-class discussion or separate students into teams. Additionally, providing the list to students so they can choose a few to respond to in writing can serve as a summative assessment. You may even want to consider adding a research component in which students explore more about Irena, the girls' stage production, and the publicity this story has received over the past two decades.

The Production

  • What sparked Liz Cambers' curiosity when she first came across Irena Sendler's story? Why do you think she pursued this topic for National History Day?
  • How did each of the girls--Liz, Megan, and Sabrina--add their own personal stories and perspectives to the project?
  • What parts of the play do you think most appealed to early audiences? Do you think the girls would have had equal success telling Irena's story if they had chosen another type of retelling?
  • Judges during the National History Day competition called the girls ''agents of history.'' How does this term describe each of them?
  • What are some of the lasting effects of the 'Life in a Jar' production and the publicity garnered from the performances?
  • When the girls travel to Poland, what experiences do they go through that change the way they see Irena's story? Do they adapt the play accordingly? Do you think they should change the play based on the new information they glean? Support your claim.

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