Davina Turner, a humanities teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, taught her eighth-grade students history by going straight to the source – those who experienced it.
“So many people forget that history is living,” she said. “They learned a lot about our community that they were surprised by and that they would never have found out through YouTube or history books.”
Turner’s class visited the Tijeras Senior Center in early March to interview six men and women about their past and the history of the town.
“The students were surprised to learn the A. Montoya field used to be a corn field,” Turner said. “And we met the person who used to sharecrop it.”
The project was funded by the Horizon Award from Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation, and covered the purchase of two iPads used for video and audio recording.
Using the iPads afforded the students the opportunity to experiment with technology and helped them cement the stories in their brains.
“The kids were able to come back to the classroom and everyone wanted to make sure notes were right, so they re-watched the whole interview,” Turner explained. “Hopefully, that means they’ll really remember what they learned since they heard it twice.”
Lefty Foreman, Roosevelt’s recreational coach, said it was particularly important to foster that sense of community with the changes coming from the consolidation of A. Montoya and Roosevelt.
“I think, especially now that we’ve become a K-8 school, we’re focusing on how we can serve our community,” Foreman said. “I think very much so this is something our school would be interested in doing again in the future.”
The project was inspired by Santa Fe Living Treasures, a nonprofit that collects oral histories and photographs from elders in the area. Turner said she felt it was important for the students to learn about the world in which they live.
“The reason we did this project was to have some community tie in and to let the kids have a chance to talk to the elderly,” she said. “So many kids are disconnected from the older generations.”
Rita Rivera, the manager of the center, said the project was a hit with the seniors as well, who relished the chance to talk about their past with the students.
“They like doing things like that,” she said. “They like talking about their history and many were excited when I asked them if they wanted to do it.”