Bridging the generations

Life in the United States has changed greatly over the past 50 years. Computers, cell phones, digital cameras and tablets – all have become common place to tech-savvy students. But what 50 years ago? Wednesday morning, sixth graders at Webster City Middle School had a chance to learn what life was like when their grandparents were young.

The students took part in a writing assignment comparing life in the past to their lives today. In order to research the project, the young people had the opportunity to interview a senior citizen.

“Each student wrote interview questions to ask the guests. Each of the guests interviewed had to be at least 60 years old so that we knew there would be some dramatic contrasts,” said teacher Theresa Turpen.

Some chose to interview their grandparents or someone they knew outside of school. But the majority were paired with volunteers from the community who agreed to come in and talk with the young people. The groups gathered around tables in the school commons and in the media center.

The students, with iPads in hand to video record the session, spent about an hour with the volunteers.

“The adults were told that if they had a particular story they wished to share, to please do so,” she said.

Sidney Carver interviewed Vern Ratcliff and learned about what school days were like when he was a child.

“I was surprised about the country schools they went to,” she said. “He had to walk a long ways to school until he got a Doodle Bug.”

Manny Hernandez interviewed Dan Anderson and learned about life on the farm.

“He said that on the school bus, they would switch off every year with who got on first and who was dropped off last,” he said. “He told me he liked being dropped off last because then he could spend time with his friends.”

Both students said they enjoyed doing the interviews and learning about the what they had in common as well as the differences.

The activity will lead to a written paper in which the young people compare their lifestyles with the volunteer’s life. They will also create a video using pictures and their own voices to tell the story.

“What were the differences? What were the things that stood out with what the seniors were telling them and how we live today,” Turpen said.