Students prepare for the “Great Thanksgiving Listen” with their grandparents
The wise advice "listen to your elders" has new meaning for thousands of kids this Thanksgiving.
After weeks of classroom training, they are ready to interview a grandparent or elder. The kids will pose questions such as, "How would you like to be remembered?" Or, "Has your life been different from what you imagined?"
Then they share those intimate talks with the world through a never-before-seen effort. It was conceived by the nonprofit oral history project StoryCorps.
StoryCorps president and founder Dave Isay calls it the "Great Thanksgiving Listen." It is a unifying moment for the nation. He hopes to double the audio recordings StoryCorps has collected in one long weekend. Right now, they have 65,000 audio recordings. The effort began in 2003.
"This is for future generations to hear," Isay said. "It's a gift to be listened to in this way. And it's a gift to share your story and wisdom."
The recordings are stored in a publicly accessible archive. It is at the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center. It is located in Washington, D.C. Recordings made for the Thanksgiving project can be heard on StoryCorps.me. The website also has the free smartphone app students will use to record and upload their interviews.
Gabriella Rinehart is a senior at Washington County Technical High School in Hagerstown, Maryland. She plans to interview her 89-year-old great-grandmother, Mae Ridge.
"She's lived through a lot of big changes in U.S. history," Rinehart said.
Rinehart's teacher is Carol Mowen. She hopes her students will be "overwhelmed by the power of the story." That's how Mowen said she often feels listening to edited versions of StoryCorps interviews. They are aired weekly on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition."
"As an English teacher, that's what we live for," she said.
In Chicago, Yuliza Ruiz plans to interview her older brother, Emilio. She wants him to talk about his decision to join the Marines.
"I want to ask him about his goals," she said.
Some kids already have posted interviews. Some can run up to 40 minutes long. Listening to them is like eavesdropping on talks that can enlighten and surprise.
Claude Gange is from Warwick, Rhode Island. He said he and his wife Camille told their 13-year-old granddaughter, Lauren Bonner, things they never shared with her before. He told her about the last time he saw his mother alive in Brooklyn. It was two days before she was killed by a car.
The talk deepened his relationship with his granddaughter, Gange said. He is a retired school administrator. "I'm not just a grandfather. I'm a person."
Annabelle Tipps is from Henderson, Texas. She interviewed her mom, Deborah. She learned how her mother and her siblings dealt with their parents' divorce.
"A lot of questions led to questions that opened up a lot of doors that I didn't even know were there," said Annabelle, 14.
Annabelle has advice for others doing the project. "Just do 'em before you forget. Or before it's too late because they're really cool and it's something you can have forever."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What is gained by recording the voices of older people instead of merely writing down their words?
Write your answers in the comments section below