Two of my most memorable school assignments both involved interviewing my grandfather. In the first, for a seventh grade history assignment, I learned about his work during World War II Air Raid drills, making sure no light shone through neighborhood windows. In the second, for a college writing class, I learned rowdier stories of his days in Scranton’s immigrant neighborhoods—including exploits with a friend’s body stolen from an Irish wake that sound way too much like the movie Weekend at Bernies! I’ve never forgotten either project.
This Thanksgiving, as families in the U. S. gather for the holidays, Public Broadcasting’s StoryCorps is working with high school students and teachers to sponsor The Great Thanksgiving Listen. The goal of the Listen is “to preserve the voices and stories of a whole generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.” The students who participate will have a chance to learn about history, about their families, and about how history is preserved and understood.
What a fabulous idea! If you are a high school teacher or administrator, you can go to The Great Thanksgiving Listen website and request the free teacher toolkit. Not a high school teacher, but still want to participate? No problem. Anyone ages 13 and up (with parental permission from those under 18) can download the StoryCorps app and follow the prompts to participate. Your family stories can become part of the collection archiving the voices of a generation. What treasures!
Of course, if you don’t want to upload your stories into the StoryCorps collection (or if you can’t quite manage this by Thanksgiving), just collect the stories for your family, whenever you can manage. You will be glad you did. I recently ran across notes and an old tape recording for interviews I’d done with my grandmother more than 20 years ago. Hearing her voice again was like a joyful reunion. You’ll want these stories one day. Gather them now. Storycorps is ready to help.