About six years ago my class started to participate in a Library of Congress Digital Archiving Program. The quick explanation is that the LOC realized that today’s kids don’t leave behind many material artifacts, and so set out to digitally archive what they are doing on the internet. A few years later my school celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary. I could not help notice that all records and artifacts of our schools existence pretty much stopped about ten years ago–when everything started to go digital. That is when I decided to start trying to preserve some kind of record of who went to our school and what they did. I opened up a flickr page and started taking and upload images. My goal was to document everything that they did for an entire year…let’s just say I did not meet the goal.
Last year we had an ex-student killed in Afghanistan. As a teacher put together a memorial service for him he found a VHS tape with the student presenting a project for his class when he was in 8th grade, and people turned in photographs of him when he was in 8th grade. It was incredible to have that physical evidence of his time at our school and it was worked into a video shown at his memorial service (you can see the video at the 1:36 mark). It was another spark I needed to start documenting what was occurring in our school.
This year I was even more determined to make it happen. I carried my camera to school each day and to every event the kids attended. I added almost 1,000 images to our flickr account during the 2013-14 school year. Their entire year was documented from the first to last. The very first thing I did when they walked into class, before I even said a word was to video the class. With all of these pictures coming in I decided to start making videos to send home to parents. This year parents received an unprecedented look into their kids lives. Not just the pictures they might expect like kids at “big” events or presenting things, but the everyday things they do like walking in the hall, eating lunch, and just making silly faces at one another. With most of the videos we sent home we included the still images taken up until that point, but also tried to add some extra “story” to the video. I know for one video one student said her mom watched it ten time and cried each time. The comments that came back from parents were so positive.
Next school year take pictures. Lots of them. Even when you don’t want to. Take pictures of all the things you would normally ignore. Kids walking into your room, standing at lockers, and sitting on the bus for a field trip. Periodically throw them into a slide show and send them home. Best investment in home to school communication you will ever make.
I would like to share some of the videos that were sent home this year. Some are pretty long. If you do have some interest in doing something like this I would suggest that you skip around in the videos. Each video has different parts, each which can be done individually.
The first video parents get is our class commercial (more info on it here). It obviously does not have their kids, but gives them a glimpse as to what their kids should expect, and after watching they are more likely to sign that little form that allows me to take and post their pictures! I tell them if they do they will have an unprecedented view into their kids’ eighth grade year. The video is broken up into four parts.
The first video that is produced by the kids and sent home is our “three word” video. After the first day of school the kids are asked to send in images with three words describing their expectations for the year. While it does not have pictures of the kids, it does set a simple precedent and the kids are more eager to be in the next video that will be sent home.
This is now officially one of those no-brainer activities that I must do each year, and you must do it too 🙂