Considering Questions of Historical Preservation and the Classroom Community
Guiding question: Why is it important to document multiple perspectives when creating and interpreting the history of an event, community, or social experience?
• Collaborative google slideshow (to which partners will each contribute a slide)
• Students will begin to grapple with the notion of historical preservation as it relates to their own story and potentially larger themes and/or social events represented within the class community’s history.
• Students will be able to draw connections between objects and historical significance by identifying specific objects in the classroom that could be used as representative artifacts of the class community’s history.
Plan of Instruction:
1. Introducing questions of historical significance and preservation:
• Ask students to consider the following questions independently: “Why is preserving the past important? Who determines what history (or who’s history) is worth preserving? Is your personal life history worth preserving? Why, or why not?”
• Students answering the following question with a partner: “Why is it important to document multiple perspectives when creating and interpreting the history of an event, community, or social experience?” Students should discuss their answers for 1-2 minutes, then partners create a slide explaining their answers and add it to the class google slideshow (or other collaborative document).
• Discuss similarities and differences in student responses as a class. Then introduce the idea that using multiple perspectives is not always straightforward. Ask partners to consider the following questions as they make judgments about creating a history of their classroom community:
– If we wanted to create a history of our classroom community, how would we do it? What objects, if any, would we preserve?
– How would we explain the collective experiences that make us a community?
– How would we express/communicate the individual experiences and identities still present in our class?
– What object would represent your individual identity as a community member? Why is that particular object representative?
– What would you leave out? What would fall by the wayside?
– What, if anything, could not be preserved?
• Once partners have made decisions, they will complete an outline/plan for preserving the history of the class community. Discuss partners’ plans as a group, or have partners create a slide for a class google slideshow. Partners will briefly explain their slides to the class as a way to open discussion. What similarities or differences appear in different partnership’s plans? What do those differences tell us about how decisions are made about preserving histories?
2. Wrapping things up:
• After discussion, the teacher asks students, “If you could contribute three artifacts to an archivist that speak to your identity or history what would they be?” Depending on the amount of time remaining in class, students may bring their list of three objects the following day (or may even bring one of the objects to share).
• The teacher emphasizes to students that their decisions about documenting and preserving history are made both consciously and unconsciously by individuals, families, communities, as well as professional historians and archivists.
• Inform students that in the next lesson they will explore the strategies used by professionals to document and organize historical data.
Introducing the History Harvest and Drawing Connections to the Class
Theme or Topic to be Investigated
Guiding Question: What types of evidence would we need to create a more nuanced historical record of [chosen theme/place/event]?
• Video message from Professor Jones
• Brief biographies of community members to be interviewed
• Students will understand History Harvest as a means of both contributing to the historical record and drawing connections between harvested objects and the given historical process/theme being studied.
• Students will understand that oral histories are a desirable form of history that can be considered an artifact along with objects and other relics of the past.
• Students will learn more about a community member and the past by engaging with their biography and researching historical or social events that connect with their experiences.
• Students will begin to understand oral histories further by drafting a series of interview questions that reflect the biography of a community member.
Plan of Instruction:
1. Projected on the board for students is today’s guiding question, which reads:
• “What types of evidence would we need to create a more nuanced historical record of [chosen theme]?”
• The intention is for students to realize the limitations of objects/artifacts alone and that with the additional element of stories (i.e. oral histories), a more complete and intimate representation is formed.
• Students consider the question independently then discuss briefly with their pods (i.e. neighbors: ideally groups of four students).
• The small group discussion transitions into a larger class discussion and the teacher provides opportunities for students to share out their preliminary thoughts.
• At the close of the discussion the teacher emphasizes that creating comprehensive and more nuanced histories requires researchers to draw on multiple types of evidence and to take into account historical actors’ perspectives and experiences that may have been quite different from one another, hence the need for their stories (i.e. oral histories, along with objects, as evidence).
• The teacher challenges students to consider what a possible work flow for collecting stories and how to organize and preserve them. Teacher says, “How would we go about getting these stories? If we could get them, how would we put them alongside objects into a museum-like space? Would something like Instagram or SnapChat work?”
2. Introduction to the project:
• The teacher informs students that for the rest of the week their work will address these questions directly as they will be working with objects and collecting stories that will then be archived in an online archive/museum.
• The teacher explains that the archive/museum will “tell the story” of the given topic from multiple perspectives, as community members will be bringing objects and offering personal narratives (stories) that shed light on various aspects of the topic. The teacher adds that, in order to get these stories, students will be conducting interviews and collecting information about the objects. In doing this, the teacher suggests, students will be doing the work of a public historian – that is, collecting stories (oral histories) and documenting objects for the purposes of learning about the past and each other.
• The teacher informs students that they have been given a special message by an actual historian that will help provide more information about the work of a public historian. Professor Jones’ video message speaks to the importance of public history as a form of community engagement and provides a couple of examples of the type of work he does as a public historian. He closes his message by introducing the History Harvest and invites students to join in their own History Harvest – something that has never been done by high school students.
3. Getting to know our community members:
• The teacher explains that before engaging in their own History Harvest and interviewing members of the community students need to have working knowledge of both the topic being investigated and the participants they will interview.
• The teacher hands out brief biographies that they have prepared about each community member. These are distributed to pods after which students use them to help complete a biosketch organizer. Additionally, the biosketch requires students to research possible connections between the community member and the topic being investigated.
• After completing the biosketch, student groups share out information they have learned about their community member along with particulars learned concerning the topic under investigation.
4. Wrapping things up:
• Before ending the lesson, the teacher ask pods to brainstorm some possible questions they might use to ask their community member (participant).
• Students are instructed to consider their biosketch organizers to help inform their questions and guide what they feel they need to or want to know from their participant. Students draft about 5 to 10 questions that will be used in the opener of the next lesson.
Prepping for the History Harvest
• Interview questions
• Oral history log sheet
• Oral history excerpt
• Metadata sheets
• Voice recorders
• Students will enhance their understanding of conducting a History Harvest by engaging with equipment needed (e.g. a voice recorder and camera) for implementation.
• Students will further enhance their understanding of oral histories by viewing an oral history interview and identifying/labeling compelling instances that a historian would later re-visit for further analysis.
Plan of Instruction:
1. Focus on interviews:
• The front end of this lesson focuses on interviewing community members and considering the work of creating oral histories.
• The teacher asks students to retrieve their interview questions and to begin organizing them in a chronological fashion – this is important because it helps demonstrate how the participant’s experiences developed over time and provides an accessible organizing structure for students that will not strike participants as random. To demonstrate this the teacher provides the following prompt that will begin each interview:
– My name is ______ ________ and I am interviewing _______________ as part of Lincoln East High School’s History Harvest. Mrs./Mr. ___________, my first question is could you tell us about your upbringing: where you are from and when you were born?
• The teacher adds that interview questions should be open-ended and encourage the participant to do most of the talking – the participant is the focus.
• To further prepare students for the interviews, the focus now moves to providing students with exposure to what the oral history interview will look like and involves showing students an excerpt from an actual interview. Before doing so, the teacher hands out the Oral History Log Sheet for students to use as they view the excerpt. The teacher explains the purpose of the Log Sheet is to document the exact time something interesting is shared by the participant during the interview. [Teachers may consider having a digital clock visible for students so they can track each event.] To identify the compelling instance students are instructed to document when it happened in the interview (e.g. minute/second) and include a quick label or summarizing phrase that identifies the instance – the teacher adds that these “timestamps” are important because historians use them to revisit the recording later for further analysis.
• Students view the oral history and document important events within the interview.
• At the close of the oral history clip the teacher expresses to students that along with their questions, they will utilize this “timestamping” strategy as part of their oral history interview with a community member the next day. These identified moments will be used to help write a summary of the interview that will be included along with the audio file into their class archive.
• Before moving ahead in the lesson the teacher asks students to share some of the “events” they recorded on their log sheets. The teacher pays close attention to events identified to ensure students grasp the significance of the strategy. Teachers may want to ask students to clarify why they chose specific instances in order to better understand student thinking.
• After discussing these, the teacher then asks student groups to assign roles for each member: 1 Technician (working audio recorder and camera), 2 Interviewers, 1 Recorder (documenting/labeling important instances).
2. Test-driving the equipment:
• The focus of the remainder of the lesson is on becoming familiar with both the camera and voice recorder that will be used as part of the interviews and photographing objects.
• The teacher begins this by bringing out a few voice recorders for students to “test-drive.”
• Before test-driving the recorders, the teacher models/demos some of the major functionalities of the device.
• Students are then encouraged to “play” (become familiar) with the voice recorders and record snapshots of dialogue with their pods – the purpose here is to make the devices and their proper use familiar to students. This would also be a great opportunity for students to prepare for the interviews by asking pod members their interview questions in a rehearsal-like fashion.
• In addition to interviewing community members the student groups will also be taking photos of the objects they bring to the interview. The teacher hands out a Meta-Data Sheet and then models for students how to take a archival photo. Before demonstrating how to take a photo the teacher asks students why having metadata would be important to have alongside the photo. Students should be clear that metadata is useful for visitors to an archive so they can learn about the object, it’s provenance, and the people who used it – without it, viewers could only guess what they think the object is, its significance, and where it came from.
3. Wrapping things up:
• After students have become familiar with the equipment (camera and voice recorder), any last minute questions are addressed. Students should leave class fully aware of their roles, the biography of their participant, and questions they will ask during the interview.
See, related hand-outs:
History Harvest Enactment
Guiding Question: What strategies and approaches allow researchers to conduct effective interviews?
• Cameras/recording devices
• Extra batteries
• Metadata sheets
• Interview Questions
• Oral History Log Sheets
• Students will interview members of the local community in order to develop a better understanding of their community and its history.
• Students will aid in preserving the experiences of members of their community by conducting oral history interviews and digitizing objects to be housed in an online archive.
Plan of Instruction:
1. Do we have everything we need?
• Before engaging directly with community members, the teacher projects today’s guiding question for them to see. The question is intended to help frame their interactions with participants and the larger goals of why public history projects and community engagement matters.
• On a more practical level the teacher also projects the following list of resources needed for today’s class to ensure each team has the materials they need.
– Voice recorder
– Back-up batteries
– Interview questions
– Oral History log sheet
– Metadata sheets
• Once groups have verified that they do have materials needed to conduct the interviews the History Harvest begins.
2. Engaging with our community:
• Student groups now meet with the community member(s) they have been assigned. The location within the school for the interview will be determined locally, but it is suggested to have a location/space with limited outside noise interference as to ensure a high quality sound recording. Students are advised by their teacher to be gracious to the community member and thank them for agreeing to sit for the interview and share their experiences with the class before beginning the interview – this is truly an honor.
• The interviews themselves will vary in length but should last between 30 to 45 minutes.
During the interview the student groups of four maintain the roles that were determined in the previous lesson: 2 interviewers, 1 technician, and 1 recorder. While each of these roles are equally important to the overall success of the interview, we suggest reinforcing the role of the recorder prior to the interview – their contribution (time stamping of events) will direct later efforts to summarize the interview that will be included as part of the metadata to be included with the archived interview.
• If possible, we suggest having a prepped “stage” for objects to be photographed in each location. It will be up to the students to collect the metadata for each object either during or after the interview – this information should be obtained from the participant before ending the session.
• If students finish unevenly, teachers may have them (upon returning to class) discuss their immediate thoughts about the interview and how it went. Students may also want to spend time discussing the Oral History Log sheet and events that have been identified and/or their metadata sheets concerning information collected unique to each object.
Wrapping things up:
• Upon completing the oral history interviews and photographing objects, students will transfer the audio files from the voice recorder to their laptops and google drive accounts along with any pictures taken.
• Time permitting, the teacher may want to spend time with students and allow them to process what their experience was like and what they learned from the community members. This processing period can be free flowing or more structured in nature. Some possible questions to facilitate this could include:
– What did you learn about the community member
– What sorts of experiences/events did they share? What objects did they bring?
– C0uld you relate in any way to their experiences or something they mentioned?
– What sorts of preliminary ideas do you have about their stories and objects and what we can learn from them?
– Why do you think these types of opportunities to engage with the community matter
– Did you learn anything about yourself today? How might learning from others teach us about ourselves?
• Before ending the lesson the teacher informs students that the Harvest continues the next day and further archiving what they’ve collected.
Re-visiting Interviews and Completing Metadata in the Online Archive
• Oral History Log Sheet
• Metadata Sheets
• Students will contribute to the historical record by summarizing portions of an oral history interview to be preserved in an online archive.
• Students will consider the contributions of a member of the community and assess how they can be used to learn about the past.
Reviewing and summarizing the contents of the oral history interview:
• At the close of the previous lesson students uploaded their interview audio files and pictures to their google drive accounts.
• At this point students will work on completing the metadata sheet for the interview including a summary of the file’s contents. Using the compelling instances that were documented on the Oral History Log Sheet students will integrate three compelling instances from their Log Sheets into their summaries (descriptions). Summaries are intended to be concise rather than exhaustive – however they should reference moments that were identified on the Log Sheet and how they fit into the overall interview.
• After completing the interview file metadata sheet, the pods work toward completing metadata sheets used for objects that were brought in by participants. Completing the metadata sheets may take longer that expected but it is within reason that by the end of the class period all metadata for each artifact should be finished and submitted to the teacher. Only teachers will have access to Omeka (the repository we will use to house the archive) so students should be submitting metadata, photos, and audio files to the teacher who will then transfer them to the class archive. For more information about Omeka please see the Teacher Toolkit and the Omeka tutorial.
Reflecting on the Harvest Experience and Making Arguments Based on Evidence Collected
Guiding Question: Why is it important to document multiple perspectives when creating and interpreting the history of an event, community, or social experience? What does the evidence we’ve collected tell us about the topic we are investigating?
• Reflective Essay Prompt
• Oral History Log Sheets
• History Harvest Reflection Sheet
• Students will demonstrate their understandings of how we can learn from the experiences and stories of others about the past through creating a reflective essay.
• Students will reflect upon their History Harvest experience and complete a series of reflective prompts.
Plan of Instruction:
1. Interpreting the Experiences of Others:
• After groups have completed the work of digitizing the harvested objects and interviews, students will address the reflective essay prompt independently. In addition to the photos and audio files to be added to the Omeka site, the teacher informs students that this interpretative element of the unit (the reflective essays) will also be included as part of the Omeka site. Students are given as much time as they need to complete these. Students are also encouraged to use data collected by classmates to bolster their arguments.
• Essay prompt (assessment): “Write an argumentative essay about our theme that engages multiple perspectives on the issues and uses evidence both from your own History Harvest interviews and the data collected by your classmates. How do the various perspectives and data “harvested” influence your understanding of the theme and its significance, both historically and in our lives today?”
2. Wrapping things up:
• Once students have completed the reflective essay prompts they are then given the opportunity to reflect upon the History Harvest experience more generally.
• Students are given the History Harvest Reflection sheet to capture their ideas as they reflect on the overall experience and are given the remainder of the class period to complete these. Some students may not finish this part of the lesson during this class – at which point they would complete the following day.
• In the coming days, as the teacher has had an opportunity to upload all student work (including photos, metadata, and essay responses) to the Omeka archive, the teacher showcases student work by viewing the site as a class and may consider additional opportunities for student learning including having students present what they learned from the members of the community with the rest of their peers and possibly inviting community members to view their work.
See, related hand-out: