There's this organization called "Citizen Schools" (CitizenSchools.org), located in just seven states (CA, MA, NJ, NM, NY, NC and TX) where they encourage average citizens to come into public schools and teach a 10-week apprenticeship to middle school kids. The idea of this apprenticeship is to "complement classroom learning by engaging students in hands-on learning projects led by adult volunteers after school and supported by a staff of professional educators."
I was first introduced to genealogy in 1970 when I was in 9th grade at Highland Park High School (MI) when Alex Haley came to speak at the Jr. College that was located in the same building as the high school. This was several years before the publication of his epic novel, Roots
, and long before the internet. I sat there, on the edge of my seat, as I listened to him explain how he was able to trace his family back to the exact tribe from which that line had originated. Who knew that tracing one's heritage through the ravages of slavery was even possible? And in 1970?
Anyway, ever since then, I've thought about the possibility of my doing the same thing by engaging young folks with the possibility of finding their own roots.
Enter Citizen Schools.
The school where I hope to apprentice is Lionel Wilson College Prep Academy, located way East in Oakland, CA, and though the neighborhood is probably 99% black, between 90-95% of the students in this school are Latino. Hmmm. I've never done ANY Latin/Hispanic (what's the politically correct term, anyway?) genealogical research at all, so this might prove to be a bit of a challenge.
In two weeks, I'll have to attend the Apprenticeship Fair and sell my after-school course to prospective students. The "Team Leaders" at the school (who will assist me) told me I need to find a WOW ... some product, performance or presentation produced by the students ... and work backward from there, in planning my curriculum. But in order to interest the students in signing up for my program, I will have to present a five minute presentation to get their interest.
I figured I'd use the old standard, Pocahontas (my 13th generation grandmother) and possibly use the whole Disney (yecchh) movie tie-in to show them that, although that was a cartoon, Pocahontas really did exist and I'm a direct descendant. If I print out a larger-than-life pedigree chart up through the Randolphs, Rolfes and Bollings, way down to me, that might interest up to a dozen kids. Hard to figure how 12-13 year olds will react. Stuff we think might be really "cool," will just give them a big yawn. Were WE so hard to predict when we were young? Nah, couldn't have been.
I only have to teach one class per week (one hour per class), and we'll have access to computers and the internet. By the time the 10-week course is over, the kids will present their WOW (not an acronym) to the whole school. To view some previous WOWs from other Citizen Schools locations, take a look at their WOW Showcase: http://126.96.36.199/
Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Better yet, maybe YOU would be interested in doing something similar at a school near you.
Lemme know what you think.