Pritchardville Elementary fifth-graders explore family history with scrapbooks

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJune 2, 2012 

A typewritten memoir of a great-great-grandfather, a World War II ration book, dozens of wedding photographs, and family recipes are just some of the things Pritchardville Elementary School fifth-graders have turned up in their research.

The students are putting together family scrapbooks and have turned to their moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles for help on essential questions such as, "What country are we from?" and "When did our family arrive in the U.S.?"

Caitlyn Langlois interviewed her 93-year-old grandmother on Skype and recorded the interview on DVD. From that conversation and other research, she discovered her family is both Swedish and English, and has traced her history to the 1700s.

Her grandma shared recipes for dishes she had never heard of, like "brown-paper-bag apple pie," Langlois said.

Other students said their parents had boxes of information and pictures to comb through.

Going through such keepsakes with his mom was "pretty cool," Michael Donahue said. That's how he found a copy of his great-great-grandfather William David Duckett's memoir, which included a story of pulling his own teeth with pliers when he had toothaches and other tales from his youth.

The students have worked for several weeks to compile family trees, track down family crests and find stories from their past.

They have written down those stories, along with tales about their favorite family traditions or letters to their future children, to include in the scrapbooks.

Teacher Julie Collins said the project was inspired by one she completed in high school. She still keeps the family scrapbook she created for an 11th-grade English project and tries to add to it each year.

"It's one of (the) most treasured things I have," she said. She cooks using the family recipes she recorded and shares the family stories she wrote down with her children.

She enjoys seeing her students find connections between their families and their history lessons.

As an example, Caleb Weis discovered his grandfather's World War II ration book, something the class discussed when studying the war.

"They connect social studies to their family and realize they have a personal connection to history," Collins said.

Collins has assigned the project every year during her 12 years as a teacher. Former students have told her years later they still add to their scrapbooks.

That tradition may continue, as Collins seems to have sparked an interest in family ancestry in some of her fifth-graders.

"I'm starting to know more about my family," Donahue said. "I might keep adding to it."

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