Educational Activities


  Page contents:
Phase I: Introduction
Phase 2: Collect Information From Primary Sources
Interview an Elder in Your Life
Library Research
Museum Based Research
Community Maps (including taking photos)
Phase 3: Analyze The Information/Develop The Project
Phase 5: Giving Back
Phase 6: Evaluation And Feedback
Disciplinary Threads




Phase I: Introduction:

Ř     Students view the virtual exhibition and write and discuss their responses and questions.

Suggested approaches:

·        Encourage students to develop their own questions prior to viewing the exhibition. This process will serve as an introduction to the exhibit and allow them to personalize their interaction with the exhibition. As they view it, they will be thinking about their own questions, which may help them to reach a better understanding of the concepts presented in the exhibit.

·        Generate a classroom list of observations and questions after viewing the exhibition. Work with students to identify questions and themes for further exploration. For example, Who are the elders in your life? What do you know about them, about their lives when they were young, about their lives now? What makes someone an elder? Why is it important to understand the lives of different generations of people?

·         Have students keep the list in their classroom folder and collect it for your own files as a point of reference throughout the project and as a point of comparison for the evaluation. For example, you may refer to the list as students record responses to their questions. Then at the end of the project, students can look at their list of questions to see how much they learned.


Phase 2: Collecting Information From Primary Sources

Introduction: Working with primary sources provides students the opportunity to conceptualize history from multiple perspectives. With your guidance, students will learn to think like historians by examining different sources and then developing a narrative to tell “the story” of a particular event, person, or time period. To become actively engaged in the research process, the students can: (1) develop questions around a given theme, (2) identify potential sources that will inform their inquiries, (3) collect data from those sources, (4) compare and contrast the information, and (5) conduct their own analysis and create their own narratives to reflect the historical perspectives gained through different data sources.


Interview An Elder In Your Life

Suggested approaches: Students may or may not have contact with their grandparents or other older relatives. Even those that do may have only tenuous ties. This activity allows them to reach across generations and, in the process, gain a sense of history through a personal lens. 

·        Develop Questions: Ask students to develop a list of questions for use in eliciting an oral history. The objective is to find out about the present day realities of the interviewees (their interests, needs, daily activities, and so forth). The questions may focus on the elders’ perspectives about their own lives as well as the surrounding community. Students might also ask the elders to show them photos that are important to them and ask the interviewees to discuss the images and meanings in the pictures. This approach can be extended to other material items such as knickknacks or religious items that have meaning to the elders. 

·      Interviewing Is a Delicate Process:  As students learn to listen, they may well find that interviewees will share rich stories with them. But it is important not to pry into the intimate details of a person’s life. Interviews that are conducted in a respectful manner allow the interviewees to tell important stories in their own way. The following sample questions are listed as examples to guide the interview. Students should not feel constrained to use only these questions. Teachers and students together may want to expand the list. The idea is to be respectful, flexible, and above all good listeners. 

·        Sample Questions

1.)     When were you born?

2.)     Where did you grow up?

3.)     Have you moved a lot over the course of your life? Where?

Why did you decide to move?

4.)     What kinds of things did you like to do when you were growing up?

5.)     What do you remember about school?

6.)    What was going on in the world when you were in elementary school? When you

         were a teenager?

7.)     What kind of work did you do?

8.)     What about your life now, what do you like to do?

9.)    Where do you live? How would you describe the area where you live to someone

         who has never been there? What are the strengths of this area? Weaknesses?

10.)  What do you enjoy about where you live? What would you change if you could?

Library Research

Suggested approaches: Students may follow up interviews with library research on themes and historical events discussed during interviews. For example, if the interviewee mentions living in New York during the Great Depression, students might look up New York newspaper articles from that time period to provide context for their interviews. They might also ask the librarian for diaries or autobiographies that were published by people living during that time as another primary source.

Museum- based Research

Suggested approaches: Students may choose to visit a local museum and see if the exhibits pertain to the any of the themes raised in the interviews. With their teacher’s help, they might also call ahead and arrange to meet with a museum educator or curator to discuss the themes discussed in the interview. This would allow students to learn from the museum’s objects and other forms of material culture that comprise a particular period of history and have meaning for different groups of people.

Community Maps (including taking photos)

Suggested approaches: Give each student paper, a clipboard, and a pencil or pen. Take the students on a walk around the neighborhood or just around the block where the school is located. Ask them to record overall observations, including evidence of community resources, problems in the area, and different types of buildings and to write any questions they might have. Depending on the level of the students’ vocabulary, review the concepts and terms that you want students to investigate and observe. You might also want to give them a disposable camera and ask them to take pictures of the neighborhood. Pictures can be used as a point of discussion in their interviews and as a visual aid in their final presentations.


Phase 3: Analyze The Information/Develop The Project

Suggested approaches: There are many ways for students to report their research, depending on their level of development and the amount of time you would like to dedicate to the project. Some potential products are listed below.

Phase 4: Presenting The Information To make the project authentic, it is important to give students an opportunity to present their work to an audience, which might consist of classmates, other classes in the same school, community leaders, the elders they interviewed, and parents. This allows students to understand that research has a larger purpose; that is, to inform the public. Some examples of final presentation formats follow.

Phase 5: Giving Back

It is important for students to learn that research can be a reciprocal process. Through their interviews, the students will gain valuable information. Teachers and students can discuss how they might best thank the elders who were part of the project.

Phase 6: Evaluation And Feedback

Virtual exhibitions allow for a circular learning process that can also serve as an evaluation. By viewing the exhibit again at the end of the project and providing feedback to the exhibit designers, students and their teachers will have the opportunity to see how much they have learned and to become part of the exhibit through their communications with the exhibit designers.