Gwinn students showcase intergenerational storytelling projects

GWINN, Mich. (WJMN) – Fifth grade students from Gilbert Elementary School in Gwinn capped off a schoolyear-long project on Friday, presenting video interviews they recorded with longtime residents of Gwinn about their stories about life when they were growing up.

“We planned to present our project to the interviewees because they had not seen the results of the videotaping from the interviews,” said fifth grade teacher Debbie Goldsworthy. “They hadn’t seen the reflections the students made, which we put together in a book, and it was more of a correlation of the interview from the senior perspective and then a child of today’s perspective of what is their life like.”

For the students, the connections made through the project allowed them to learn about the interviewees’ personal lives, while tying in their shared experience of living in the area in different times.

“Probably the funnest memory is getting our final draft down,” said Silas Anderson, one of the fifth grade students. “Writing the final thing, and then finally meeting the seniors. It was kind of scary because we didn’t know who it was that was our partner, like our senior. We were sitting at the table and then we find out, it was just exciting.”

“I think this was a lot of fun to do,” said fifth grade student Jackson Lehto. “Because at the beginning of the year, all we would do is just learn and I feel like this is a good thing to do, with every year, have a special project.”

“I was a little bit excited about it, writing to the seniors,” said fifth grade student Zachary Franklin.

Gilbert Elementary students learn the stories of senior citizens in their community

“The kids were interested because I played baseball, and then found out I was the captain of the team that won 21 in a row in Gwinn,” said Paul Erickson, a local resident interviewed for the project. “But mostly, baseball was my game. Major League tryouts and that, they were interested in that, the kids, especially the boys. They asked some very intelligent questions. Hard for me to answer some of them because it’s a completely different subject than sports”

“I thought they were excellent,” said Jeanette Maki, a local resident interviewed for the project. “I think the most important thing is working with children and grade school kids and kind of getting them into this. You know, they have to be part of the community. You can’t just be on these (cell phones) all the time, so anything that I could do to participate, I did.”

In addition to the students, Goldsworthy hoped the project would be a positive experience for the interviewees as well.

“They were quite honored to be part of it,” said Goldsworthy. “They volunteered but as they got interviewed, one of the interviewees was saying ‘They brought me back to my childhood, and some memories that I had totally forgotten about, I remembered again,’ from their prompting questions, so that was really nice. And then today I heard one of them saying to one of my students ‘You did a great job on that interview I really liked it,’ so that was nice.”

As the school year wraps up, the project has helped keep those new connections and memories preserved.

“I think it was well worth it,” said Maki. “It taught the kids so much about how everybody is so different, but they all work for the same goal. They all have families and they all do the same thing.”

“I’m just pleased to be around yet at 90 and to be able to be a part of something that’s interesting and gratifying as well,” Erickson said.

“It’s gonna be something I will remember like when I think of fifth grade, this is what I’ll think of,” said Lehto.

“Hopefully I’ll remember it later in life if I’m going through my stuff from fifth grade,” said Anderson. “Having the note from the senior and our note to them, and just remembering like, remembering what we did in the past. And as we got older what happened different.”

“For the students, I think they really felt it was fun to learn about those time periods because we researched a little bit before we interviewed,” said Goldsworthy. “And they were finding out about fashions, cars, movies, toys of those eras and they learned a lot from it. So I think that was an appreciation, appreciation for the different the growth of change. I personally feel satisfied about this project because it’s my last year. I’m retiring, and I wanted to do something special for the community. And so for me, it was like, this is a way to capture a voice of a community member that won’t be here forever. And that voice is captured and stories from their from their perspective is now preserved.”

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