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Aug 02


Take a stand. Don't be a bystander.

Pick an issue that matters to you, research it and advocate for it. Get your class involved.

"There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil things and those who see evil things and don't try to stop it."
- Janis from "Mean Girls"

Consider the above statement. Now consider how you could go from inaction to action on an issue that matters to you. The idea behind this project is to not be a bystander, but to take action, take a stand for what you believe in.

The project:

  • Either as an individual or with a partner, pick an issue that you are passionate about. It can be anything: animal abuse, water conservation, human rights, bullying, any injustice you have seen or experienced, etc.
  • Research the issue and take notes; look for examples of the issue playing out in the media; look for examples of action being taken on the issue.
  • On your blog, write about why you picked this issue, what you learned -- and make a list of several ways people can help (Example: Donate to the ASPCA or contact your local congressman to encourage them to support a bill.) 
  • Add audio of you (and your partner) talking about why this issue matters and how people can help.
  • Add a photo slideshow. These can be photos you have taken or downloads of photos that reflect the issue (make sure to provide appropriate credit.)
  • Finally, check out what your classmates are doing -- and make a comment on their blogs!
This resource was adapted from a lesson by teacher Caroline Legan, Orleans, VT.

Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, John Ireland, 2014

Aug 01
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When doing research, using an article, a scholarly article, or a scientific journal can often give your research more credibility. First, ask you local library or your school library about their database, and see if you can use it for research. If your library doesn't have these resources, here are a few free online databases you could use. 

Vermont Online Library 
This is a resource many of your own teachers and librarians may use. There are eBooks, articles, career resources, and school resources all available with a simple search. 

The New York Public Library 

Aug 01

History through Photos II

Photographer Lewis Hine took photos in the early 1900's of child laborers in the south and northeast that were so startling they brought about drastic change in U.S. child labor laws. This challenge helps you appreciate what life might have been like. 

Lewis Hine photographed child laborers in the early 1900s -- and laws were changed. Look at the children's faces in these photos. Imagine their lives. Write for just seven minutes.

This challenge is intended as a free write, but it may get you interested in the subject enough to want to pursue your own project. Or it can be incorporated into your My Community Story project.

Look at each of these photos and imagine yourself as one of the children in the photos. Choose the one that speaks to you most. Hover your mouse over the photo to stop the slideshow and think about what life must have been like. Write for seven minutes only. Tell us a story of what happened in your day. Or tell us how you happen to be in the photo, or what your life is like that requires you to work. 

When you are finished, save, and read a classmate's post and tell her/him your reactions to what they wrote.


Incorporating Research into Stories

Use the completed stories as drafts in a larger research project. The purpose would be to conduct research and revise -- edit, expand or redo -- your story with what you discover to create historically accurate representations of these children’s lives. Some important questions:

  1. Why is it important to add historically accurate elements to your story?  
  2. Where can I go to find out more information? websites: 
    1. http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor
    2. http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/
    3. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/hine-photos/#documents
    4. http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/1566/lewis-w-hine-american-1874-1940/
    5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hine
  3. Now that I have gotten more information, how do I incorporate it into my story, or, write a new one? What's the most compelling thing I discovered? What are some other details about the time, the conditions, that I can incorporate into my story?
  4. Are there other, broader topics that might make a good personal, independent project such as child labor?
(Photo credit: Lewis Hine, Library of Congress)
Aug 01
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Migrant Mother -- Background

Aug 01

History through Photos I

Historic photos offer an intriguing way to dive into history, a way to imagine a narrative -- and support it with research.

BEFORE you listen to the audio, write for seven minutes in response to this photo. Imagine yourself as the person in the photo, or one of the children or the photographer. Tell the story. Tell the backstory. Look at details; where might this be? What's going on? 

After you finish. Take a look at some of your classmate's responses. Give one of them -- someone who hasn't gotten a response -- a comment. 

ONCE you have done that, listen to the recording. The woman speaking is Florence Leona Owens Thompson, 1903-1983. She is the woman pictured in this 1936 iconic photograph by Dorothea Lange. Lange was working for the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration documenting the Great Depression and happened upon Thompson, a migrant worker with seven children. Lange took six photographs without getting the woman's name and left. Both Lange and Thompson came to dislike the photograph for different reasons: Lange felt it became a symbol and no longer felt it was her work; Thompson said she felt ashamed -- but determined never to be that poor again. 

There is much more to Florence Thompson's story and to the story of this photograph (if you wish to find out more, see: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/285) which, among other things, was a catalyst for the writer John Steinbeck to write Grapes of Wrath a story focusing on the plight of migrant workers in the Depression.   The intention of this challenge, though, is to help you feel -- and understand -- the potential for narrative within historical research and interviews.

Potential follow-up projects:
  • Go to your local Historical Society and explore their archive of photographs. Do any particularly move you, interest you? If so, use that as a jumping off point for finding out about the people, situation or time period within the photograph. See what records your Historical Society has. Check with the library. Are their any living witnesses? Or elders who may have memories of their ancestors' stories.
  • Go to a relative or an elder in your community and ask if they'd be willing to share an old photo and tell stories about the photo and the times depicted in the photo.
  • Explore a particular historic event in your community -- something that happened that was significant such as a natural disaster or war or major achievement or change. Look for photos -- and even old audio recordings. 

In all of these, combine what you find -- photos and sound -- with text to create a compelling story. 

[Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress]

Jul 31
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Interviewing Musts

When performing an interview, there are a few basic rules you need to remember — whether it be for legal reasons, general courtesy, or credibility. 

Permission. You have to ask permission to interview someone. You must ask if you can disclose information like their name, and ask if you can quote them. You also must tell them where this information will be published. In addition, if you are going to record this interview on a device, or if you want to take their picture, you have to ask permission for both. 

Jul 27


Interview an elder in your town. Get the facts and tell their story.

Research and interview an elder in your town. You will create a valuable digital story that will provide a unique look at the history of your community.

This challenge will require several sessions -- but it will be worth it!   (Click here for a resource for this challenge.)

Choose an elder in your community -- it could be a family member, a friend, or someone you've never met, but who is willing to talk to you -- and interview them. Get them to tell you stories. (If it's a relative, get them to tell you a story that they haven't told before, or, at least they haven't told you.) (Ask for help from a teacher, family member, even the staff of a local retirement home.)

1.  Get the story  

  • Before your interview, prepare your questions -- everything you'll need for a fair and complete profile. Correct spelling of the person's name? Date of birth? How long they have lived in the community? Family members? Occupation? etc.
  • And because you're curious and you want to write a great story, think of questions that will elicit more than a yes or no answer. Ask your interview subject about anything surprising, interesting, unusual, funny that they think people should know about them.
  • Set up the interview. Bring an audio recorder and ask your interview subject if they would mind being recorded. This helps with accuracy and will be an important element of your digital story.
  • If your interview subject has one really amazing story, you might decide to focus solely on that one story. Or you might choose to write a full profile and just include the story as part of it. (Either way, make sure to ask plenty of questions to cover all the bases.)
  • After your interview, look over your notes. If you see gaps, you might ask for a followup interview.

2.  Write  

  • With the interview information still fresh in your mind, write your first draft on your blog. Get it all down. Listen to your audio recording to fill in any gaps and/or to accurately convey some of the best quotes. Read it over and take a first pass in organizing it.

3. Comment

  •  With a classmate, exchange posts and comment on each other's pieces, noting details that work, questions, confusion, flow. 

4. Write again  

  • With comments in mind, revise your work, proofread and polish it. Reading the piece aloud helps highlight mistakes and stumbles.

5. Add sound and images  

  • If you have audio and photos from the interview, you can create an amazing digital story. There are many options, including narrating the story using your written piece, including the back and forth conversation from your interview, pulling together the best quotes, adding current and historic photos, etc. Audacity and PhotoShop are great tools (more in Resources).

Remember to check out this resource for inspiration: Frank Glazer - An Elder Story.

Exercise Extension:

Invite senior storytellers to your class to tell their stories. Interviewing and writing their stories can be an amazing group project!


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madeline Green, 2015)

Jul 27
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Web Searches

So how do you improve your Google searches? To find better quality content (content from reputable sources, peer reviewed works, accurate information, etc), you need to know how to use the Google Search bar using the right search terms and format. 


Did Tropical Storm Irene strike your community in August, 2011? 

View Respond

All responses to Irene

Jul 26


Expand upon a story in your local newspaper with your own research. 

Practice journalism skills by expanding on a current newspaper article about your town. Figure out what is missing from the story; interview people; and write your own -- better! -- article. On the surface, this challenge might appear longer than others, but it will be fun!

Journalists, working under tight deadlines and other constraints, might not always have the chance to interview everyone they'd like to include in the story. Read your local newspaper and you're bound to find at least one story that's missing some elements.


For this exercise:
1. In your local newspaper, find a news story about your town that interests you.

2. Read the story carefully. Has the reporter missed anything? Certain facts or points of view that you think should be included? Make a list of any holes you see.
3. C
onduct your own interviews based on the same story. Ask two friends, and your parents/guardians OR two of your teachers their opinions about the subject. What do they have to add to the story?
4. W
rite your own article using the new information you got from your interviews.

Comment on the articles of your peers. Tell them what you think of the new information they uncovered.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016]