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Research and Create an Oral History of Pearl Harbor

Students will conduct research or interview someone who was alive on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. They will record an oral history that tells about the events of that day.

PROCESS:

  1. Invite students to share what they know about the events of December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
  2. Point out that people can learn about historical events like this in many ways. They can read books, study artifacts or go to museums. They can also talk to someone knowledgeable about the subject. That person may be an expert on the topic or someone who was there when the event occurred-like Charlotte Coe, who they read about in the article.
  3. Point out that the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred 78 years ago. Anyone alive now who lived through the attack would have been a teenager or even younger when it occurred. So, finding a living witness might be difficult. However, many groups have interviewed Pearl Harbor survivors over the years and recorded their oral histories so their stories will not be forgotten.
  4. Instruct students to either conduct research to find an oral history about Pearl Harbor, such as those in the Pearl Harbor National Memorial's collection, or to interview someone they know who was alive at the time and experienced the event. If they are using an online interview, encourage them to create an audio version of the script. If they are interviewing a living witness, have them record the conversation to create a detailed oral history of the Pearl Harbor attack from that person's perspective.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their recordings with the class. As a class, discuss how hearing personal accounts of the attack instead of news reports or historical summaries impacts their understanding of what happened that day.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice using the devices until they are all comfortable using the equipment. Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to find and select an online interview. Give groups time to record their interviews and complete their projects
Grades 5-6:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice using the devices until they are all comfortable with the equipment and the interviewing process. Then divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to find and select an online interview or identify a living witness they plan to interview. Give students time to complete their projects.
Grades 7-8:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice using the devices until they are all comfortable with the equipment and the interviewing process. Then divide the class into pairs. Challenge partners to find someone who was alive at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and remembers what happened. If that proves to be impossible, instruct students to locate an expert on the topic and interview that person instead. Encourage them to create a list of potential questions to ask. Set a deadline for students to complete their projects.
Grades 9-10:
Prior to conducting this activity, provide students with tape recorders or digital recording devices. Encourage students to practice using the devices until they are all comfortable with the equipment and the interviewing process. Then divide the class into pairs. Challenge partners to find someone who was alive at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and remembers what happened. Encourage partners to conduct background research on their subject so they can create a detailed list of relevant questions to ask during the interview. Set a deadline for students to complete their projects.