Making Connections: Using What's Taught
Teachers Researching History
One of the things we learned early on is that in order to make any program work, and I think this is probably true throughout. If there—it's like creating a course syllabus for a university course or any course, which is you have to make sure you don't try to do too much. You want to mix some breadth and depth, and those are really difficult things to do. But it's also important that the elements of the program relate to one another.
So, if we do something early in the program, it's nice if it can come back, whether it's a skill, let's talk about reading this document, and now revisit reading this document at a later time. Well, that's how we've done oral history really effectively in our program. We've trained teachers in how they might use extant oral histories, on the web, stuff that's in—at the American Folk Life Center, that's widely available. There are a plethora of oral history collections and audio collections you can find in a variety of places. So, we give them a sense of that, and actually the way we do this is with slave narratives. We have them read and listen to slave narratives, and then we interrogate them as historical documents.
. . . if we do something early in the program, it's nice if it can come back, whether it's a skill, let's talk about reading this document, and now revisit reading this document at a later time.
Mixing Your Primary Documents and Educator Research
Well, we do that, and then we've created an oral history project, where our teachers go out and then become interviewers in the context of a larger project. And that works—that makes them into historians, and they do a great job. We've had a lot of trial and error in doing that. One of the things that's worked really well though is that we—it takes a lot of work on our part. We have to create the project, and what we do is then ask the teachers to help us create the project.
Even though we have the outlines created, we ask them to fill in the questions, and they're often, if we give them readings and background information, able to do that. And then we schedule interviews as part of our two-week summer workshop, and they go out and they do that. We have the interviewers actually come to us, the subjects, I should say, and we set the subjects up with our teachers as interviewers. Then we have the teachers do some logging of them, which isn't the same as transcribing. It's less intensive. It's a minute-by-minute log. So, that's what we've done. And then we take that material and pair it with some other primary source materials we have, we've collected in a local collection, and the teachers can create lesson innovations around that.
Bringing It Together
Liette Gidlow came from Wayne State University, and she did—she presented a synthetic talk about American consumerism and she used advertisements. And what made her use of the advertisements so effective is that she used them both in her synthetic talk, and then she came back to them when we got to what we usually include in all of our programs, which is a skills section, some sort of interpreting history. So, she went from the general, this kind of broad approach, to something that was based in research, and the teachers really liked that combination. So, Liette did a brilliant job at what I thought, of bringing those materials together.
We’ve had other speakers who’ve done the same thing. Andrew Hurley has done similar work for us around his book. He does a wonderful job of drawing a synthetic portrait and using images and other materials in it, and then coming back to them during the skills sorts of sections of our workshop. Yeah—that’s—and in fact, with Andrew Hurley's work on consumerism, we include a tour of the suburbs of Cleveland that we've developed to complement it, to kind of build out some of the themes he pulls out in his study of the landscape.