Open house night at my son’s high school – parents wandering the halls, feeling the anxiety of freshmen on the first day of high school trying to find their first period class. Thankfully, Junior ROTC students are there to guide us masterfully to our destinations.
My son, Noah, has world history for first block. His teacher guides us through the syllabus posted on her website, where she also posts articles from the web related to what they’re studying – posts on archeological digs, fun facts, and photographs. I’m relieved that her philosophy is to make history fun rather than a litany of dates and dead people’s names. Her message to students is that history isn’t dry historical events. History is what people lived.
I start getting excited when I ask if they write a research paper and she tells me “Yes, but it’s a different from the average research paper.” The students will write historical fiction. They’ll use primary source documents like diaries, photographs, and newspapers–the good stuff genealogists swim around in for fun.
The fiction needs to be historically accurate, but the students get to choose a topic that interests them. While the teacher requires a minimum length, she doesn’t limit the maximum length of the paper. One of her students turned in a thirty-page paper! A bit daunting to read, but she says it was a great story.
I’m thinking of emailing the teacher and suggesting that she add “ancestor experience” to her list of potential springboard topics. Even if a teen doesn’t have all the details of a great-great-grandparent’s immigration, pioneer journey, or war story, they can discover what it was like to live in their ancestor’s world.
Writing historical fiction is one way to get teens engaged in history. Creating an Ancestor Story Video is another way. Take the first step in making a short, engaging family history video by downloading some free Ancestor Story Video Tools. Click here to get started.
You can see some examples of ancestor story videos on our Video Gallery.