Project-based learning opportunities are in genealogy’s DNA

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • A popular genealogy English elective at Old Rochester Regional High School in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, lets the single-semester course’s 30 students dig into their families’ pasts via public records through a project-based learning curriculum, according to The Hechinger Report.
  • Teacher Kathleen Brunelle inadvertently lined the course up with education trends by creating a project-based platform that lets students spend weeks immersed in a topic they find interesting, and once the information is collected, students create a book showcasing their results.
  • Students whose families have only been in the U.S. a couple of generations have trouble finding information and have to rely on family memories, since securing international records can be difficult. Students often transfer their new research skills to other classes.

Dive Insight:

Researching one’s own family can be a fascinating venture that inspires interested students to learn new skills. Educators know making lessons relevant is more likely to keep students focused, and companies like Ancestry are offering resources that grant students access to historical records and data to help map out family histories. AncestryK12, for instance, has grants that give a year of access to Ancestry Classroom, Fold3 and

The Indiana State Library also features a resource guide for K-12 educators and parents in the state. It provides age-appropriate activities and includes a list of online resources like the National Genealogy Society and The Indiana Junior Historian special issue, “Collecting Your History.”

Not only can educators guide students through online research, but also introduce them to library and city hall documents, as well as helping them brainstorm resources. This type of teaching is designed to empower students, as project-based learning combines content mastery with meaningful work to connect with students on a personal level.

Genealogy lessons can also be adapted for all ages and cross a range of subject areas. Students in younger grades can learn about the world through exploration and comparison, with maps used to show where students’ families came from. The subject can demonstrate the importance of cultural diversity when students realize that, at one point, everyone’s ancestors were immigrants. It also teaches students how to research, using computers and the internet effectively while developing organizational skills.

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