Communities Thrive @ Your Library!

National Library Week recently came to a close with the theme: Communities Thrive @ Your Library.  This year the 5th grade teachers and I collaborated on a project to celebrate our community called the Barrow Oral History Project.  Our school was built in 1923, and it has seen many changes through the years.  Imagine the wealth of stories hiding out in the community and in the walls of an 87 year old school just waiting to be told!  Our goal was to seek out former Barrow students and teachers, record their memories of attending Barrow, and archive those stories for future Barrow students and teachers to enjoy.

As always, the idea began as a seed that began to sprout, grow, and blossom with many emails and collaborative meetings.  At one point the plant (project) began to grow uncontrollably and had to be pruned because there was just too much that we wanted to do and not enough time.  In the end, we had a project that incorporated multiple GPS standards, especially the 5th Grade Social Studies where students study the past century.
Many components came together to make the project successful and enjoyable.  I received a grant from the Athens Area Community Foundation to purchase 12 digital cameras and books related to oral history and photography.  We participated in a video conference professional learning session with the Library of Congress about gathering community stories.  The whole school brainstormed possible contacts.  My media paraprofessional contacted participants and scheduled 3 days of interviews.  Fifth grade teachers, student teachers, and myself paired together to plan 4 centers that students rotated through to prepare for the interviews:  Barrow’s history in scrapbooks, online/print oral history projects, interview etiquette and question development, and technology such as Audacity and digital cameras.  We held a kickoff to introduce the project to the students and then launched into our centers.

We held one extra day to fine tune our interview questions and practice interviewing one another.  Students then came on their scheduled day and interviewed their participant.  The interviews were recorded with Audacity and digital photos were taken.  Students finalized the projects by returning to the media center and piecing together photos and audio in Windows Movie Maker.  The movies were uploaded to Teacher Tube, and a website was created.  The site was shared with all of the participants.  Students followed up with their interviewees by writing at formal thank you letter and mailing it.

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Students left this project with a new understanding of their school.  They had real connection with people who grew up during the time periods that they studied and had ways of connecting those decades to a real place that they understood.  There were stories about growing up in the Great Depression, stories about segregated schools, stories about going to school barefoot, and more.  This project has received numerous compliments from the participants and the community, and it only scratched the surface of the stories that are hiding in our walls and in our community.  I hope you might consider how to capture the stories of your own community.  The only way our stories live on is by telling them.  I invite you to listen to the stories of our school.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA


About plemmonsa

School librarian, connected educator,Google Certified Teacher, NSBA 20 to Watch, speaker. Expecting the miraculous every day!

Posted on April 23, 2010, in Best practice, Ideas, Information Literacy, Primary sources, Standards, Web 2.0 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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