Tracing Community History

The local library approached sixth grade students studying local and Maine history with a request for help collecting and documenting oral histories of community members. The students discussed the request in class and decided they were interesting in working on the oral histories as a service-learning project.

To gain a better understanding of their community’s history, the students reviewed a timeline and looked over historical photographs of the town that the librarian provided. Using the Internet and books on local history, small groups of students researched topics such as ice quarries, wooden boat building, food and clothing styles. Each student selected a focus for their oral history project, depending on what they wished to learn more about. The director of the local historical society helped students formulate questions for their oral histories, and each student set up a phone interview and practiced a phone call script.

The students were energized and informed by their oral history interviews and shared their findings with the class. Each of them summarized their findings from their research and interviews and created exhibits, which they displayed in their school’s library. They also gave copies of their oral history recordings to the local library and historical society.