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Central Students Help Library of Congress Document the American Story

Central Students Help Library of Congress Document the American Story

A recent creative writing lesson gave four Lakota Central High School students a permanent place among the Library of Congress’s digital collections. 

Teacher Kristin Woosley’s search for an “authentic audience” for her writing students led her to a special project called “The Great Listen.” Since 2015, the StoryCorps has been collecting interviews from across the country that capture the essence of the American experience. Specifically, the “The Great Listen” encourages young people to contribute to the oral history at the American Folklife Center by recording interviews with an elder, a mentor, a friend or simply someone they admire. 

“StoryCorps used to air some of the interviews as segments on NPR,” Woosley recalls. “Some made you cry, some made you laugh, but they all gave you a peek into people’s lives.” 

Among the students who submitted work were freshman Aleks Fasig, senior Graham Jordan, sophomore Kimberly Rodriguez and sophomore Gavin Stratton.  

Stratton opted to interview Matt Gronas, an art teacher at Lakota West Freshman. Stratton appreciated the life stories his former teacher shared, especially as they related to his eventual decision to choose art as a career. He also enjoyed learning about his family traditions and gained a new appreciation for his own family traditions. 

Jordan chose to interview his mother. Despite a close relationship and regular conversation on a routine basis, he was surprised that the experience uncovered new stories he’d never heard. He was also flattered to be the subject of her answer to one of his questions: “What are you most proud of in your life?” 

But beyond such takeaways from the conversations themselves and the opportunity to preserve such stories, Woosley was especially interested in the “real world soft skills” her students gained from the experience. She is especially grateful to the support of Central’s innovation specialist, Tracie Klemen, who repeatedly helps put her ideas into action. 

“My focus is always on what I can do to give them the skills that they need in a fun or less intimidating way,” Woosley said. “Every single kid is going to have to go through the process of being interviewed or interviewing someone and that’s an art you can only learn by doing.” 

Another project earlier in the school year gave her students an authentic audience - this time with kindergartners at the adjoining Creekside Early Childhood School. Woosley’s students were challenged to create a board game that they could gift to the school. The project ended with a special meet-up between both groups, giving the game’s inventors a chance to see their work in action. “The serotonin boost they got from those kindergartners giving them high fives was reason enough to do the project,” Woosley said. 

Yet another project had Woosley’s students submitting “how to” essays in response to one of the monthly prompts from the New York Times. Their work is automatically considered for potential publication in the news source.

Beyond the glory of publication, Rodriguez reflected on the personal meaning of her participation in “The Great Listen.” 

“I would love for my own kids to one day hear that conversation with my grandma. That would be so cool,” she said.  
 

  • curriculum