January 28, 2010 at 9:01 a.m.
Appropriately scheduled around Thanksgiving, participating students are asked to read "Molly's Pilgrim," by Barbara Cohen, and then discover their own heritage by talking with generations of family members. Students make "ancestor dolls," which reflect their family's own unique history. "Family stories are the best history students can avail themselves of," said third grade teacher Barbara Siqueiros, who also noted another advantage of the project. "It promotes understanding of different cultures. The children realize they all have different backgrounds, yet they are more alike than different."
Over the years, the project has resulted in some amazing materials being brought to class. Students have brought turn-of-the-century journals to class, as well as many other historical documents. Stories parents tell of valuable bonding that takes place between child and relatives have been very rewarding.
Speaking of stories, students have told a few of their own over the years; like the one about a grandparent who missed a ride on the Titanic because of an eye infection, or twins who found each other after being a continent apart for most of their lives, or the grandfather who met his wife when his horse-drawn cart crashed through her father's storefront.
According to Siqueiros, the project generated a high level of excitement from students this year, and the vast majority of ancestor dolls were turned in before the due date. "Some of the work is just amazing," she added. If you would like to see examples of ancestor dolls from Siqueiros' class, as well as student dolls from both Jane Aslakson's and Dejah Zerwas' classes, they are currently on display at the North Branch Area Public Library.
Who knows? You may be inspired to do a little heritage sleuthing of your own.