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Oral history project connects Eagle Ridge students with Savage community

Seventh-grade students who were born in 2002 or 2003 recently had the chance to talk with community members much older than they are.

Eagle Ridge student Rory Ferrell interviews Frank Wilebski, a long time resident of Savage, veteran of the Vietnam War, and retired Savage firefighter.

Savage Mayor Janet Williams talks with students about the city's history.

As part of a class project, 70 students from Eagle Ridge Junior High in Savage interviewed local senior citizens, ages 55 to 90, and then wrote a narrative about an event or time period from history. It’s an oral history project that bridges the generation gap.

Teacher Jacquelyn Gramentz came up with the project as a way to combine communications, writing and historical research for her language arts/social studies block honors level classes.

“I want my students to see that history isn't dead, and that they can learn a lot from older people in their community,” she said.

She connected with Savage Mayor Janet Williams, a long-time resident of the area, who rounded up 20 volunteers from the Dan Patch Historical Society and another 10 from the Savage Senior Center who agreed to be interviewed by students.

The experience at the Savage Public Library on May 7 began with Williams and husband, Will Williams, giving an overview of the city’s history. Then students met individually or in pairs with seniors and asked twenty questions such as “What technological advance has surprised you the most?,” “What are the most significant ways in which the world has changed since you were a student my age?,” and “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?”

"It was a really exciting experience, and I learned a lot about the history of Savage that I didn't know before,” said student Kali Lorensen. “I'm also really glad that I had the opportunity to meet my interviewee and hear their stories of their interesting life experiences."

“I thought that this was a great classroom project because it brought the students to the library to learn about what a public library of TODAY has for resources, to the Heritage Room to learn about the history and to use social skills to interview older adults about their life experiences,” said Mayor Williams. “We hope that it was a field trip that the students will remember.”

Gramentz will provide the library’s Heritage Room with a copy of the students’ stories.

Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 13:48