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Students' Interviews of World War II Veterans Underscore Meaning of Primary Source

Students nationwide are often confined to learning history from textbooks written by historians who have done their own research, but what if their learning experience can be engaging, insightful and straight from the source?

In Grand Rapids, MI, students at the Kent Innovation High School interviewed local WWII veterans in order to create documentaries, according to an MLive article.

“There were 10 veterans, most from Sentinel Pointe Retirement Community, on campus being interviewed by groups of students, who were captivated by their stories and eager to see the photos, memorabilia and artifacts they brought to share,” reported Monica Scotts or MLive.

Students were able to break away from the classroom and jump out to the field to conduct their own research. Rather than reading a book and writing an essay they explored stories from the source to flex their creative abilities by creating documentaries based on their interviews.

“I feel like I got a reality that not all memories of war are bad," said Will Korest, a freshman at Forest Hill Central High School, who was paired with 90-year-old Hollis McKeag, a member of the Air Force Reserve,” according to the article.

"This was way more engaging than just reading about the war from a book," Korest continued.

These hands on projects are a great example of how research can be turned into a fun and engaging experience for students. They can learn a lot from people who have experienced the historical events first hand.

"The main reason we are doing this is that these veterans are not going to be here with us much longer," said Trevor Muir, a Global Studies teacher at Kent.

"I grew up with a grandfather who was in the war, but these students don't have the same opportunity I use to have to sit down and talk to him. I really want them to be able to do that while we have the opportunity."

It’s not always easy to get students excited about the information they learn while promoting the development of multimedia skills. Pairing these two skills along with a rare experience makes for an overall more engaging experience.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.

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