Student Historians Preserve Local Heritage
Student Reporters Gather Stories of the Past and present
By Laura Richter

GRADE LEVELS 7-8 and very adaptable for other grade levels
TIME ALLOTMENT 2-3 40 minute classes plus time for individual interviews
Block scheduling allows for the continuous flow of the activities.

OVERVIEW In preserving our cultural heritage, student historians play a critical role in our communities. It is important that students learn effective strategies in gathering the rich stories of Maine’s past. Students learn how to conduct effective interviews by using technology as an essential tool in researching, communicating and publishing. Internet resources included here are essential for gathering information and celebrating published works. Other forms of technology integrated in this project include multimedia presentation tools, a student-friendly movie production program, and a web design program.

SUBJECT MATTER Language Arts / A Study in Local Communities
Social Studies/ Maine History

Students will be able to: Use a wide range of strategies to address different audiences for a variety of purposes; Write or speak for reflective, creative and informational purposes;
• Record significant information from interviews conducted;
• Make extensive use of primary sources when researching a topic;
• Ask pertinent questions when interviewing
• Demonstrate an understanding of the lives of selected local/ state figures.STANDARDS National Standards: (NCTE)
#8 Students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
#9 Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

Maine State Learning Results:
Research-Related Writing and Speaking: Students will work, write, and speak effectively in connection with research in all content areas. Research involves generating ideas and posing questions. It includes gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing data from a variety of sources (e.g. print, non-print, and electronic texts, examination of artifacts, interviews, with people). Researching and reporting use a variety of informational and technological resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge
Processes of Writing and Speaking: Students will develop the ability to use the skills and strategies of the writing process.
History/ Historical Inquiry, Analysis, and Interpretation: Students evaluate primary sources in understanding Maine history.PREP FOR

TEACHERS This lesson can be part of an overall unit on the history of your state with an emphasis on preserving local heritage. Teachers should be prepared in the instruction of interviewing skills. Prepare two index cards for your mock interview. Have questions prepared to demonstrate the difference between “closed” and “open” interview questions.
You may want to contact an older individual in the community for conducting a “mock interview”.

Explain to the students that they will be interviewing a person in the community who has valuable experiences to share. Tell them that a good interviewer can get information without distancing the subject. It is important to make the subject feel at ease and the ultimate success of an interview depends on the questions asked and the manner in which they are asked.
Having said this, choose a student to ask you two questions in front of the class. Give the student the index cards with a “closed” question. I used the question: “Have you ever traveled?” I responded “yes.” I then questioned the whole class as to what they thought about the question. They all know already that I travel and they quickly picked up on the fact that it was not open ended, or required only a “yes” or “no” response. The second question on the card was “Tell me about one of your exciting experiences while traveling in Italy.” After responding, I turned to the class and asked if they noticed the difference? I then took a few minutes to brainstorm questions on the overhead, that the interviewer could ask me about my travels. We listed both “closed” and “open” type questions. Have the students write down the

Elements of a Good Interview:
• Be Prepared
Try to research or gather information about your subject before the interview.
Have a pen and pad if keyboarding skills are good, take laptop to interview.
Dress appropriately
• Be a Good Observer
Try to make your subject feel at ease by noticing how they react and allowing them to talk.
• Be Objective
Try not to react emotionally to the responses.
• Note Taking and media
Try to develop a way to take notes by abbreviating. Ask the person that you will be interviewing if they mind you using a tape recorder. Also make sure they do not mind if you publish their stories on your community web site. Take
• Follow-up
Ask if it is ok to call if you have further questions.

Before students interview their community member, have one class where students interview one another.

Begin by passing out 5 index cards per student and have them write out “open” questions to ask a peer. The goal should be to get the subject to recall an interesting story about his/her past.
Have student pair up and as one interviews the other, he/she should take notes following the guidelines for elements of a good interview. Allow enough time for both interviews to take place.

Process the lesson by having students come forward to model the interview and share what they learned form each other. Encourage the class to ask questions and share reflections.

The culminating activity will be the community member interview.

This project is entirely about community and preserving local heritage. A special evening presentation can be held where students invite everyone in the community who helped them in the study.

Students will need notebooks for interviewing
Digital camera or movie camera
They will need technology tools as they research (Internet historical sites), type interviews and create multimedia projects using iMovie, Apple Presentation, Keynote or Powerpoint.
I have had students publish their interviews in Power Point and iMovie on a student created web site. iMovie gives them the chance to record their subject, write story boards, and create their iMovie. The movies are posted online Skowhegan Community Website

Website for researching events that occurred during the lifetime of the elder person interviewed.