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Echoes of History

Project Title: Echoes of History
Project Grades: 9th and 10th grades
Content Areas: English and U.S. History

Essential Question:
How do we as young community members define our local history?

About This Project:
The following story appeared in the CESNW/SSP publication The Learning Network:

Echos of History book cover

In May, Windward High School hosted a community celebration to release Echoes of History: Lummi and Early Whatcom County History, a bound collection of oral histories from over twenty-five community members and Lummi elders that was researched and written by 80 freshmen and sophomore students.

The project, spear-headed by English teacher Paul Lewis and U.S. history teachers Adam Goldstein and Katie Ruthford, was modeled after an oral history project the teachers led two years ago that focused on the stories of Ferndale residents during the early part of the twentieth century.

“Oral history projects are a great way to have our students experience the history that we are teaching,” says Adam.

“The students are also conducting a service by recording stories that will be preserved and that could have otherwise been lost,” adds Paul.

Prior to conducting the interviews, the students spent six weeks learning about the relevant history, reading locally produced texts, and researching other Lummi oral histories. Working in small groups, the students developed interview questions, worked on interview techniques and, developed an awareness and sensitivity about cultural differences of the Lummi community.

While most of the students described the interview process as nerve-racking,” when asked, many also described facts and ideas that they learned from their interviewees, as well as new insights into a culture and group of people who they didn’t know much about.

“It’s so different talking to real people, says sophomore Ryan Greene. “You’re talking to an actual person and hearing how history has impacted them.”

Following the interviews, the student teams reviewed their notes and listened to their audio-recordings in order to write up drafts of the oral histories, which were then sent to the interviewees for editing and fact checking.

Juanita Jefferson, who works at the Lummi Archives and is a member of the Lummi Nation, was interviewed by a group of Windward students. She agreed to participate because she felt like it was an opportunity for two communities to “get to know one another and develop trust.”

Referencing a long history of racial tension between the Ferndale community and the Lummi Nation, Juanita says “Through this project, Windward has taken a proactive approach to get to know the people in the community and not just accept stereotypes.”

Teacher Profiles:

Adam Goldstein has been teaching history for six years. He teaches US History, World History and AP US History. Adam has helped plan both Oral History Projects and looks forward to the next. You can visit his website at www.windwardhigh.org/agoldstein or e-mail him at agoldstein@windwardhigh.org.

Katie Ruthford has been teaching at Windward High School for two years and previously taught four years at Ferndale High School. She teaches AP World History, US History, World History, Current World Problems and Current World Cultures at WHS. This was her first year helping with the Oral History Project. Her website is www.windwardhigh.org/kruthford and e-mail is kruthford@windwardhigh.org.

Paul Lewis has been teaching at Windward High School and has previously taught at Anacortes High School. Paul helped plan the initial Oral History Project in 2005 when he was a student teacher at Windward and was the lead English teacher in the project this year. He currently teaches English and Social Studies. His e-mail is plewis@windwardhigh.org.

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