The American Historical Association’s Perspectives magazine published an article on the new History Harvest program run by history graduate students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). The article generated so much interest that it was pre-published online before the periodical was mailed. It was exciting to read how graduate students were doing authentic, people’s history in their own communities and then publishing the interviews to create a new, digital research base. History Harvest also reminded me of a project by Yokohama International School’s Grade 2 teacher Jamie Raskin. Jamie wrote a valuable post last year in which he developed an approach to exploring family and culture while avoiding simplification and stereotypes. I thought that this would be a way students could look at their own heritage and that of others in a more enriching way.
I considered how a History Harvest could be introduced at the International School of the Sacred Heart so that high school history students could try the work of historians for themselves. After speaking with teachers in the social studies department, I decided that it would work best with the Pre-AP, Grade 10 students who study Twentieth Century History. This was a great opportunity to offer Project Based Learning at the beginning of the year and tie it to the curriculum and the international school community.
The UNL History Graduate students and their advisors have published useful advice that they have learned over three years of harvests. I used this advice, and the online materials, to sketch an overview of a harvest project. It would take three parts: 1) planning and promotions, 2) harvest day, and 3) editing and publishing online. I would provide the students with the general outline of the harvest project and examples from the UNL site. The students would fill in the details and make it their own.
First I explained briefly what the project was and why it could be a valuable experience for the students. I then showed them where they could find the UNL History Harvest site. I gave each class about thirty minutes to explore the History Harvest site, watch interviews, read about the artifacts, and consider what a Grade 10 ISSH History Harvest might look like.
Students selected a theme, designed a promotional poster, invited teachers to bring in artifacts and heirlooms, divided the three-stage project into tasks and assigned roles to students. Originally, I had thought that the harvest would be a good tie-in to the Japan: 1853-1945 unit that they study first. However, students believed that the harvest would be more successful if the theme were more inclusive since fewer people in the ISSH community have older Japanese items.
ISSH hosted Mini Day for parents shortly after the harvest day. I created a short video including scenes from harvest day, the planning process, jointly creating a project rubric using a Google Doc, and activities during the Japan unit. I will include that video here to provide an idea of what the process was like in class.
Students on the publishing team worked with our IT Director to design and create a class page, link to the school homepage, and upload the interviews and photos for visitors to see. I have encouraged the students to connect the ISSH History Harvest to online museums, like the Digital Public Library of America.
This project required non-traditional and appropriate assessment. The students created their own rubric with some input from me. My guiding principles for this type of public work were borrowed from Martinez and Stager’s Invent to Learn. I believe these projects should be enduring, shareable with respect for the audience, , beautiful, and personally meaningful. (p. 66) The final piece was a reflective writing by each student.
If you would are interested in hosting a History Harvest at your school or in your community, I do highly recommend it. There are some things, big and small, that I would advise the students to do differently next year.
My Grade 10 class has 40 students. It would probably work best if the number of participants were the same, or greater than, the number of history students. This came into play on harvest day when each interview group was made up of four to six people, each with an assigned role. However, we did not have enough guests at any time to keep all of the history students working. In the afternoon, we switched tactics so that all of the history students would sit in on each interview. Similarly, during Phase 3 the editing and writing students were busy but publishing had to wait to do the bulk of their work until the videos were ready. This could be organized so that each group of students were assigned to an interview from start to finish. This would probably work best if this were run in an AP History class at the end of the year when 10 to 15 students could run the whole project.
Secondly, I would like to invite more community involvement by hosting the History Harvest on a Saturday in conjunction with another school event.