Eighth-graders interview senior citizens about life, as seen in Fauquier Now

Article originally appeared in Fauquier Now

March 27, 2019

Eighth-graders interview senior citizens about life


By Cassandra Brown

Patiently listening and asking questions, Taylor Middle School eighth-graders went back in time Tuesday, interviewing senior citizens at the Poet’s Walk assisted living facility in Warrenton.

About 30 students asked residents questions about accomplishments, work, advice and the history they have observed.

Using the Library of Congress “Story Corps” application on cell phones, students recorded interviews with a former teacher, an airline stewardess, a woman who had survived the Holocaust and others.
Ann Johnson, 82, recalled life growing up in Charles Town, W.Va., and riding her bike to the grocery store.
“A loaf of bread cost less than a dollar,” said Ms. Johnson, who later became a flight attendant.

Margaret “Mickey” Griggs, 89, told students, “Enjoy school, study, and it will be something you enjoy all your life.”

English teacher Cathleen Beachboard and her students organized the project after reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” in class.

Several students had volunteered at Poet’s Walk, which houses people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and wanted to document residents’ lives through interviews.
Students asked, “Who’s going to remember these people?” Ms. Beachboard recalled. “When they saw how powerful Anne Frank’s story was, they said, ‘These people have powerful stories too’.”

Through the activity, students — mostly 13 and 14 years old — have heard history come to life.

“We learn best from each other,” Ms. Beachboard said. “When we have human-to-human interaction, that’s where the real magic happens. Not just from reading something from a third-hand account in a textbook.
“It’s important to learn from our elders.”

Students plan to give recordings of their interviews to family members at a party in May.