Connecting Our Stories

Today I received an interesting email when I arrived at school.  Chaela Herridge-Meyer, Senior Coordinator of Communications with the StoryCorps project, sent me a message requesting an interview about our Barrow Oral History Project.  Many of you know that last year our 5th grade students interviewed 27 former Barrow buddies from as far back as 1925.  During the project, students used online oral history examples such as StoryCorps and also used the StoryCorps National Day of Listening question generator to get ideas for the most effective interview questions.   After the project was complete, I posted the link to our oral history page on the National Day of Listening wall in the hopes that other people who were passionate about gathering community stories would find their way to our project.

Chaela and I had a wonderful conversation about the power of oral history projects bringing history alive for students.  We also talked about how our hope was that the students who participated in this project will go on to capture and preserve family stories to pass on to future generations.  Also, by sharing this project at professional conferences like COMO, GaETC, and the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature we hope that other classrooms, schools, and libraries will sponsor similar projects.

November is national family stories month.  I invite everyone reading this blog to stop for just a moment, sit down with a family member, and interview him or her to gather some family stories you’ve never heard.  I invite you record your interviews to pass along through YouTube, video, photography, writing, scrapbooking, or any other means you discover.  I would love to hear about your stories.  I would especially like to post some family stories from our school on our media center website.  I’m even happy to help you in recording your story if you want to setup a time for me to help you.

The day after Thanksgiving is the official National Day of Listening.  Their website has resources for creating effective questions and recording quality audio.  I hope you will consider participating in this important day, but even if you can’t sit down for a family interview on November 26th, sit down sometime and listen.

“By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how great it is to be alive.” -Dave Isay, Founder & President, StoryCorps

Oral History Next Steps

The 5th grade students involved in the Barrow Oral History Project have almost completed their interviews.  We actually completed interviews last week and then some more Barrow buddies contacted us in the hopes of being interviewed.  What fun!

The students have been coming to the media center over the past week to use Windows Movie Maker.  They are importing the digital photographs and mp3 interviews into movie maker and adding transitions, titles, and credits.  These projects are being uploaded to Teacher Tube and will eventually be featured on a page of the David C. Barrow Elementary School Webpage.

Here’s a sneak peek at a couple of interviews.

Balfour Hunnicutt

Frances Barrow Hoge Harper

Finding Barrow’s Stories

Imagine the untold stories that could be hiding in a school building that was built in 1923.  Our 5th grade students are working to uncover some of those students in a project called the Barrow Oral History Project.  This project is funded through a grant from the Athens Area Community Foundation.  The grant purchased 12 digital cameras and books about oral history and photography.
This week we kicked off our project with a session where students learned an overview of the whole project.  Then, students were placed into four groups to rotate through 4 centers.  These centers are the result of many collaborative meetings and emails to plan what students would need in order to take on a project of this size.
Ms. Biehl is leading a center exploring mounds and mounds of scrapbooks, artifacts, and loose photographs from Barrow’s history.  Students are looking at how the school has changed over time and thinking of questions they might ask our interview guests.  Students are also brainstorming ways that these scrapbooks and artifcacts might be shared with others.  At the moment they are stored in a cabinet our of sight.
Ms. Mullins is working with students in the computer lab to explore oral history resources online.  There are many great examples of oral histories that have already been done such as Story Corps and the Veterans’ history project from the Library of Congress.  Students are also using this time to look at the oral history books that were purchased through the grant, and teachers are taking some of these books back to the classroom to read aloud.

Ms. Beshara is exploring interview etiquette and interview question development.  She is using the question generator from the National Day of Listening as well as having students develop their own questions to pull from for their interviews.

I (Mr. Plemmons) am training students on how to use Audacity to record their interviews as mp3s.  Students are interviewing one another in order to explore the software and walking though all of the steps to export the file to a shared folder.  Students are also learning how to use the digital cameras to take photographs of their interviewee and upload their photos to another shared folder.

Our interviews will take place on March 16, 17, and 18th.  Following these, the students will make final products that will be used to build a webpage of oral history from Barrow.  I can’t wait to see what stories we uncover.

Student Voice, Student Choice Grant

Today, a group of students from 3rd-5th grades met in the media center with their lunch to complete another step of our Student Voice, Student Choice Book Club.  This club is funded by a grant from the CCSD Foundation for  Excellence.  In the grant, students have a budget to purchase books for our media center.  Students must spend their entire budget, which means they may have to combine their budget with another student in order to spend every penny.  The books will be ones that are of interest to the students in the group and books that are on a level that the students are comfortable with.

Today’s session featured Jim Boon, a representative from Capstone Press.  We will be using this company to purchase our books.  He brought numerous samples of books for the students to look at and read.  Students created lists of books that they were interested in.  Next week, each group of students will sit down with a Capstone catalog and their list and begin to spend their budgets and finalize their orders.

Once the books arrive, the students will be the first to read them and will write reviews to share with the rest of the school.  Then, the books will go into circulation for all students at Barrow.

Check out today’s excitement.