Big Meanings Oral Histories

Marsh Junior High School Students Step into the Role of Oral Historians

“This is why we create histories, to remember and honor ordinary people’s lives.” ~ Monica Edinger, Far Away and Long Ago

We are pleased to showcase the work of a very special group of 8th graders from Marsh Junior High School in Chico, California, who have documented Altijana Sinanovic’s refugee story. With a little support and mentoring from school counselor Pam Bodnar, the students acted on the invitation in our On Coming to America lesson to take on the role of oral historians by interviewing and recording the story of a refugee or immigrant from their own community.

We hope you enjoy listening to and learning from a young woman’s first-hand account of the 1990’s war in Bosnia (the former Yugoslavia) as much as we have. Through their interview, the Marsh students have provided us with a window into a historic event from a survivor who was about their age when the war – and genocide – began.

Several days after the students completed their interview with Altijana, they listened to it again. They then reflected on Altijana’s journey by creating a Small Moments, Big Meanings drawing. Through this art activity, students think about one moment (small moment) from an interviewee’s story that sticks in their mind and has special meaning (big meaning). They then capture that small moment by creating a drawing. Words can be added to the drawing, either as a caption or as part of the design or as dialogue boxes.

As you can see from the sampling of the students’ drawings, Small Moments, Big Meanings is perfect for capturing special moments from oral histories.

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As part of the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project, we wish to honor the work of student historians. We are honored to feature Marsh Junior High School as our first Student Gallery entry on our On Coming to America page.

If you are interested in involving your students in an oral histories project and needs some tips for getting started, we recommend visiting the On Coming to America lesson. If your students are already conducting oral histories, we invite you to share about their projects by leaving a comment.

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