Elliot Wigginton's innovative teaching method of having students collect oral histories in Rabun Gap, Georgia, producing The Foxfire Book , is now well known. But Wigginton's success did not translate well into other classrooms. Students are now often encouraged to talk to their grandparents and write about it, but these activities are usually regarded as writing assignments and of only local interest. In addition, few schools today belong to a community as well defined as that of Wigginton's students. Moving the emphasis from collecting oral histories to reading or listening to carefully selected excerpts relevant to the curriculum overcomes these problems.
Some collection managers have tried to make archived materials available to classrooms, but the usual vehicle has been the travelling exhibit, a form which sometimes does not mesh seamlessly with classroom curriculums. In my interviews with archivists, I have learned that their professionally produced, high quality materials prepared for classroom use have not been used extensively, and if used, did not become an integral part of the classroom curriculum. I don't regard this as a failure of the prepared exhibits, but rather a transfer problem. These exhibits are very much in museum format, and as such, not easily assimilated into a classroom environment.
I suspect these exhibit materials simply do not mesh well enough with curriculums to be used widely. From my work with two elementary school teachers in designing and packaging mathematics materials for their workshop, we have found that the teachers want explicit directions on how to use materials in classroom activities. And they want these explanations placed next to the materials to be used, not in a separate teachers guide.
In my discussions with classroom history teachers, they have clearly indicated they need local materials to supplement generic texts, especially in history. Stories, even though selected from a particular region, can be on a topic that is relevant to another area of the country. And there is the added advantage that stories, as such, often have a special appeal to students. Ultimately, the local stories become lessons in geography, sociology, and even family life sciences curriculums for a national audience, nicely fulfilling the goal of learning across the curriculum.
The links below provide details of the project, plus sample materials.
Scope and Purpose
Methodology and Presentation
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