Immigration Oral History Project

My 12th grade Globalization students are in the finishing stages of an oral history project in collaboration with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians. The staff and the clients at the Welcoming Center have been incredibly generous with their time and my students are committed to telling the stories of immigrants, refugees, and GED students with integrity and respect.

Our unit of study began by completing a journal and discussion about commonly held views about immigration. Students then took an immigration quiz. As a class we viewed the wonderful documentary Farmingville and began to think more deeply about issues surrounding immigration in our country. We read and wrote about Enuma Okoro’s wonderful essay A Return to Nigeria on an online forum.

As students developed new frameworks for thinking about immigration we looked at some different models of oral history projects, including Forty Cent Tip (edited by What Kids Can Do). The classes had several discussions about how to create and design our own final products. During this time I was particularly impressed with students’ awareness of issues of power and representation. They were very thoughtful about the seriousness of the project and the importance of telling other people’s stories with dignity and respect. We discussed the best format for the project and agreed that the interview subjects should always have the final word about the finished product.

As a class we practiced interviewing and students completed initial research and preparation work when they were paired with a Welcoming Center client. Students were required to meet with their interviewee three times, twice for interviews, and a final time to share the final product and elicit feedback about changes or revisions. I prepared a project style sheet so that all of the projects would have a similar look and feel. (It’s too bad that Scrollkit won’t be available for future projects after the summer!)

This has been an awesome project to witness. In an interesting way much of it has happened out of my sight. I hear about the interviews after the fact and have been checking transcripts and reading profile essay drafts. I am the project consultant as students built outside relationships, problem-solved, and created products for an authentic audience. The Welcoming Center plans to use the projects to publicize their organization’s work and the experiences and life stories of their clients.

Stay tuned for the final products!   

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