Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"With experience comes wisdom" is a phrase that students at the Catoosa Performance Learning Center are discovering firsthand thanks to a journalism class Memory Project.
Teacher Lynn Whittenburg set her class to the task of interviewing local senior citizens to gain insight on their lives and contributions to the world the students are coming to know.
“I first was given the idea for living histories, or a Memory Project, from Beth Kellerhals when I came to teach under her at the Catoosa Crossroads Academy in 1997,” Whittenburg said of the project’s origin. “We planned a big service project that year working with senior citizens and my part was to have my students conduct interviews with senior citizens and learn their stories and record them. I still have those that were written that year in a book and eventually I plan to add those to the interviews from this year.”
Students were divided into groups of three, and local senior citizens came in for them to interview during March. Interviews were either video-recorded or audio-recorded and students are currently working to type up interviews word for word as much as they can.
“I enjoyed listening to their stories and realizing how different it was back then compared to now,” said student Ashlee Derben of her experience with the project. “I learned that for some, it wasn’t hard growing up (then), like we dream it would be. Also, the wonderful stories they told may never be told again, so we should treasure this experience we had.”
Thus far, students have interviewed a total of 17 people and plan to do a few more before the semester’s end. Whittenburg said she plans for this project to continue each semester and plans to do another Memory Project on local veterans in the fall for Veterans Day.
“My goal for the students is to learn some things about what life was like for people 50 or more years older than them,” she explained. “I wanted them to learn some about the history that these individuals have lived through and to gain an appreciation for senior citizens and what they have contributed to our world.”
Whittenburg added that her favorite part of the assignment was seeing students who were not required to complete it get excited and want to participate.
“We ended up having five or six people in on each interview because more wanted to join in,” she said. “One of my students decided on her own because of the excitement she felt for this project to interview her 92-year-old great-grandmother. She brought in an entire scrapbook of things her great-grandmother had kept such as the $4 check they paid for their first month’s rent on an apartment.”