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Capturing Intergenerational Oral Histories: Connecting with Elders to Preserve Stories and Build Community

Session 4
Alyssa Ripley, Taylor Lewis, Michael Friedman — Belmont Charter Network

After writing and recording their own “This I Believe” essays, 12th graders in STRIPES begin to expand outward in the community. Protest and change are major themes of the course, and often students have narrow views of what these look like in action. By connecting with elders from a local senior center, students build relationships and begin to understand how the Parkside neighborhood has changed over time. In addition, students hear how others have navigated change in their lives, as well as ways that people have confronted and protested injustice. Students develop and apply interviewing skills, and then work in a media lab to edit and consolidate the elders’ stories. The unit ends with an exhibit at the senior center in which students share the final stories along with photo portraits they took of their interviewees. The elders’ stories are cataloged in an archive for posterity.

The various pieces of the oral history project reflect the mission of STRIPES: Students learn through real-world, local experiences in the city of Philadelphia to develop a sense of connection, purpose, and possibility that empowers them to shape and impact their communities. STRIPES relies on three main pathways to attain its mission: authentic partnerships, integrated learning, and self-knowledge.

In this conversation, we will share the scope and sequence of the oral history project, along with final products. We will discuss with participants the ways that we connected and partnered with local organizations and senior centers in order to implement this project.

Conversational Practice

At EduCon we will offer breakout sessions/discussions centered around the main aspects of the unit: developing interviewing skills, connecting with elders in the community, editing interviews, and other elements. Current STRIPES students will be among the facilitators.

The conversation will wrap up with a focus on the nuts and bolts: the logistical pieces of implementing such a unit, including scheduling and rostering, grading, permission slips, and other logistical pieces. Participants will leave with the information and inspiration needed to develop an oral history unit at their school.

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