Weaving Our Story 2.0

History Questions and Content

In its current form, Weaving Our Story is an archival prototype for the historical narratives produced by seventh grade history students at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas.  Students collect oral histories of grandparents and use that content as the foundational primary source material in creating a short documentary film.  These films tie personal experiences to larger events in the community, nation and world.

The Weaving our Story archive will eventually house over 250 documentary films collected from 2014 to the present.  However, as the archive was developed, concerns and potentialities began to emerge that invite a redesign of the original project.  Beyond merely being an archive, Weaving Our Story 2.0 will also be an interpretive space in which to explore the connections between and among the experiences of the individuals highlighted in the collection.  In order to enrich the documentary narratives, supplemental images, files and video recordings will help to round out the collection and to provide additional primary source materials.  These objects will be sourced from open content  and public domain collections from across the world such as the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, the Imperial War Museum and the Australian War Memorial as well as materials from private collections made available through personal permissions or publication in places such as Wikimedia Commons.

Weaving Our Story 2.0 will leverage these documentaries and supplemental resources to create exhibits that invite visitors to the website to explore the connections between and among the different narratives through activities that explore the complexity of a shared past that often exists in the shadows all around us.  Ideally, the collection will also be searchable in a way that invites the viewer to further explore the archive through a vibrant visual interface while maintaining meaningful metadata in a keyword search format.

In addition to providing content and context for the documentary films, part of the project’s mission is to further historical scholarship among middle and high school students.  Weaving Our Story 2.0 will provide a detailed manual for teachers outlining the pedagogical framework and instructional assets used in coaching students through the process of developing the documentary films from beginning to end.

Digital Technologies

Currently, Weaving OurStory is built solely in Omeka.  While Omeka is a powerful open source CMS and publishing platform, it is not as user friendly a platform for visual interfaces for novice users as WordPress.   This proposal follows the NEH guidelines for submitting a Discovery grant request in order to “assess the approaches a platform might take . . . in platform research and selection.”  Ultimately, the final platform will include a basic guide for setting up an archive and exhibit space using the proposed combination of Reclaim Hosting, Omeka and WordPress technologies in the classroom.

Target Audiences

Secondary Teachers Exploring New Ways of Doing History with Students

Teachers often want to try new ideas in the classroom to engage students in doing history and learning to think historically.  Developing a comprehensive web presence that not only shows the teacher what the end product can be but also documents the process of how to go about coaching students in creating the documentaries will be of value to many teachers.  Teachers may also be interested in developing their own archive for use in the classroom, and Weaving Our Story 2.0 will provide a toolkit for how to go about setting up a public history project in the context of a secondary school environment.

Prospective Parents and Students

In the Dallas area, many parents choose to send their children to one of many independent schools.  While mission statements, curriculum guides and websites provide insight into what the students will be learning, it is often difficult to differentiate between schools.  The Weaving Our Story project sets St. John’s Episcopal School apart in the ways that it is developing historical thinking skills by creating a real world product.  This type of learning is central to the concept of Project Based Learning that St. John’s strives toward in order to develop students with “the love of knowledge” and “the courage to use it.”

Grandparents or Family Members Who Contribute the Oral History Process

Grandparents who work with their grandchildren to offer up primary source content will be interested in seeing the final product, especially if they are unable to attend the Documentary Film Festival that has previously served as the vehicle for publication.  Exploring the exhibits in Weaving Our Story and being able to browse the archive will allow grandparents both to share the end product of their own grandchild’s work and to “walk down memory lane” in interacting with the work of other students who might have alternate perspectives to related events.

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