While our Middle School students spent part of Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks collecting materials to support their work over the next couple months on genealogy, this afternoon was the first class work time we have had on the project. Students organized photographs, a few from each year they have been alive, crafting beautiful personal timelines.
Excited adolescent chatter filled the rooms of the Middle School as students shared and compared their changing haircuts and limb lengths with each other. “Back then you looked a lot like your younger brother does now!”; “I had the same yellow dump truck when I was little.”; “I still see that expression on your face a lot”(students studying three year old smirks, warning glances and grimaces of determination); followed by philosophical musings such as, “It feels like everything has changed since then, but I suppose some things never change”.
This activity is a fun and warm way to demonstrate how community building can deepen and evolve within a class who already know each other fairly well. It is also a perfect entrance into the work they are beginning in Philosophy, reflecting on how they have come to be who they are today.
Developing a connection to place and one’S personal history is key to an appreciation of history in a larger context. In Montessori philosophy as it relates to the adolescent, this is referred to as ‘Pedagogy of Place’. As each student embarks on her genealogical research project entitled the Family History Project, she has the goal of understanding more about her past but can not predict how the project can strengthen her sense of self.
This project consists of many components in addition to the personal timeline, all benefiting from hearty support of families at home. Students are asked to use the information gathered through family interviews to write a series of biographical essays documenting and retelling a variety of treasured stories and anecdotes of their family’s histories.
They are also asked to compose several autobiographical pieces, including a personal philosophical “This I believe..” essay, as well as reflections on family traditions. All of these written works will be bound into a beautiful book, enhanced by photo gallery pages, family documents and 5-generational charts.
On March 9, the Middle School will become a genealogical “museum”, with students
preparing a display of artifacts related to their family history and perhaps a family dish. At school that day, they will present their exhibits to each other. During Genealogy Night, families will have the opportunity to attend presentations from as many students as they are able. It is an evening that honors our diversity and our common human experience.