Teens take part in "Great Thanksgiving Listen" Sam Harmon, left, is interviewed by his grandson Ezra Awumey, right, while his daughter Vivian Awumey, back right, watches, inside StoryCorps soundproof booth. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Teens take part in "Great Thanksgiving Listen"
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As students head to their Thanksgiving break, here comes a big homework assignment. StoryCorps wants tens of thousands of teenagers across America to interview a grandparent or elder this Thanksgiving.  And upload their recordings to the Library of Congress.
 
The nonprofit oral history organization is asking high school history teachers to have their students record the interviews with StoryCorps' free smartphone application. Recordings sent to the library will become part of a publicly accessible archive. It will be kept at the American Folklife Center.
 
"The Great Thanksgiving Listen" is an assignment that will last for generations. That is according to StoryCorps founder Dave Isay.
 
"When young people do these interviews and they hit 'send' at end of the interview to the library, they know that their great-great-great-great-great-grandkids are going to get to eavesdrop on this conversation someday.  And get to understand where they come from, who their ancestors were," Isay said.
 
He hopes it becomes an annual tradition that brings families closer together by using modern technology to preserve the wisdom of elders.
 
The students could tap into memories of events dating back to the 1920s. But Isay said the stories are less important than the fact that two people are talking.
 
"The purpose of StoryCorps is to have the two people who have this conversation feel more connected with each other and give the person who is being interviewed the chance to be heard," he said. "It's not so much what's in the stories as what the experience is like for the people who are recording."
 
Brandon Clarke, an administrator at the private Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York, is enthusiastic about the project. He said StoryCorps, which is headquartered near the school, interviewed some of his teachers while developing an instructional guide for the Thanksgiving project.
 
A couple weeks before the holiday, Berkeley Carroll students may get some classroom exercises aimed at sharpening their interview skills, Clarke said.
 
"How do you develop good questions? How do you go about conducting an interview? How do you build off of a really interesting response?"
 
But Isay said interviewing isn't hard. He said he has learned from listening to some of the 60,000 conversations StoryCorps has collected since 2003 that people are naturally good at it.
 
"It's just a matter of concentrating, being present, making sure you're in a quiet place," he said. "I think people understand the importance of the moment. And they treat it very seriously."
 
About 13 million radio listeners hear edited versions of StoryCorps interviews every Friday. It is heard on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." StoryCorps also shares excerpts of recordings through animated videos, podcasts and its website. Those stories are largely selected from the 5,000 interviews done annually by visitors to StoryCorps' mobile recording booth or its permanent booths in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta.
 
Users of the StoryCorps app, released in March, have recorded and uploaded 10,000 interviews. The app was funded by a $1 million TED prize and a $600,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
 
Isay said the Thanksgiving project will help spread the notion - championed by the late Chicago writer, historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel - that history comes from the bottom up.
 
Clarke agreed.
 
"This is a really great example of how oral history is really history," Clarke said. "For it to be legitimate history, it doesn't have to appear in print in a carefully edited book. Individual stories, individual perspectives are also part of history."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What can be learned by talking to older people?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (29)
  • lilyg-2-bar
    11/10/2015 - 10:50 p.m.

    By talking to older people you can learn stories from our past and connect with them. "The purpose of StoryCorps is to have the two people who have this conversation feel more connected with each other and give the person who is being interviewed the chance to be heard" This shows how the older person will gain a lot from this because they want to share what they know to have it mean something. I think this is really interesting because Ms. Avol would have her classes listen to StoryCorps every Friday last year and it is very cool.

  • taylorl-3-bar
    11/12/2015 - 11:01 p.m.

    We can learn that by talking to older people more about thanksgiving and how we can celebrate the holiday. I chose this article because I want to learn more on how to celebrate the holiday thanksgiving.

  • kayleev-cal
    11/17/2015 - 12:30 a.m.

    By talking to older people you can learn about their life." The students could tap in to memories of events dating back to the 1920's." This passage is saying how kids could learn about some elders lives in the 1920's. When these kids learn they will then pass it down to the next generation of kids learning about people's lives. This is my reading response!

  • noahi-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    So you can learn stories about the past you might not have known about

  • coled-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    CTQ: By talking to older people, some may be able to learn old facts and other things that may have happened during the time that they were not alive.

  • johnj-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    Alot can be learned from talking to older people such as events in history, and what they grew up on and or what their traditions were then.

  • travisb-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    Some things that can be learned from older people is eye witness accounts of what has happened to them in the past. Like in the war, you might be able to under stand what has happened or what some people had to go through, but they can help you understand.

  • lances-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    What can be learned by older people is how we can celebrate the holiday and story's of there past.

  • calaabj-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    Many things can be learned by talking to older people because they have been alive longer than most teens and average adults and they could have learned more than the teens and adults.

  • audreya-fel
    11/20/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    We can learn by talking to older people because it gives us a sense of someone else view on a past event in history and better understand the relationship between ne and the other.

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