ing, counting, and nature, but the world of the past seems inherently more abstract and distant. Some educators have even argued that the subject is so far removed from children's experiences that they are not ready to study history until high school! Family histories, though, help students make concrete connections to topics that would be less accessible if they were introduced only through readings in a textbook. By learning about their families' experiences moving or the way their grandparents lived when they were children, students both build on the mental schemas they already have and begin to move outward to people further removed in time and place. Tina points to this as one of the most important benefits of the activities described in this chapter: "Students start to get interested in something other than themselves, other than their friends, their clothes, their bubble gum."
Focusing on families is also tremendously motivating for students and parents alike. Tina's students were excited about getting to interview their grandparents and to tell their stories in class; as one girl pointed out, "I learned things that my grandma did that I didn't know. You know what you have now, but you don't know what they had before." In Rebecca's room as well, students shared countless artifacts from their families' backgrounds, and parents sent in photograph after photograph for students to include in their presentations and papers. Successful schools recognize the importance of students' families and try to make them feel comfortable at school; family history projects take this recognition one step further by making family experiences a part of instruction. As Rhoda Coleman points out, "Parents love it, they love the interaction between the school and home. For once, this ten-year-old is asking them about their lives. Their child is asking them, 'Tell me about yourself.'"
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Igus T. When I Was Little. Just Us Books, 1992.
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