This is a simple, but informative introduction to immigration that is geared towards elementary-aged children (roughly grades 2-5). Click on either image to download the two-page file. Please distribute freely as you see fit.
©2017 Emily Kowalski Schroeder
A few years back, I volunteered with a local county digitization initiative and helped prepare county probate documents for scanning. We removed the documents from envelopes, unfolded and smoothed them flat, and removed any metal staples, pins, or thread (!) holding papers together. The experience was a lot more interesting and educational than I thought it would be! Some of these packets had not been opened in over a hundred years, and it was really beneficial to me as a family historian to see how these probate files were arranged and what types of documents were included, even though they were not at all connected to my own family.
As I thought back over that experience, I realized that kids, from upper elementary ages through teens, very easily could do this, too! And, like me, they could learn a lot about the sources they are helping to digitize.
What Kids Can Learn From Digitization Projects:
*Kids learn about the documents and record sets they are digitizing through hands-on observation.
*Kids will understand that they are doing a service to the community and to family historians searching for information about their ancestors.
*Kids learn the value of using digitization to protect documents (and the information contained within them) from natural decomposition, fire, and water damage.
Would your local genealogical or historical society like to initiate digitization projects, but doesn't feel like it has the 'manpower' necessary to accomplish them? Would your group like to attract more young faces to its ranks and become more visible in your community? If the answer is yes, consider designing and implementing a digitization project in partnership with a local youth organization or school group.
Some school districts, scouting groups, and churches require or at least encourage kids to complete service hours, and a project like this would be perfect for a teen who maybe doesn't want to volunteer in the local food pantry or church nursery. Perhaps even work WITH the churches and schools in your area to digitize some of their historical holdings that would surely be of use to family historians in your area. Our local high school has a history club and this type of project would be a perfect activity for them!
Don't think you have the technology to accomplish a digitization project? Check with your local library; many public libraries have both standard and oversized scanners, as well as laptops, available for patrons to use and sometimes even checkout. And library meeting rooms are great areas in which to meet and do the actual work of organizing and digitizing. (Just be sure to reserve those rooms far ahead of time so they are available.)
Not sure about how to make the digitized records accessible to your members and/or the community? Guess what - kids can help with that, too! For many teens, creating and editing webpages comes as second nature, and there are many easy-to-build-and-edit website services that would be a breeze for your society to maintain. The holding organization (library, courthouse, archive) may also help get the digitized database and images online.
Tips For Creating A Digitization Project in Cooperation With A Youth Organization:
*Decide what will be digitized and get permission to digitize from the holding organization, library or archive.
*Identify and contact local youth groups you think might be interested in participating. Contact group leaders through phone or email and explain your vision.
*Plan an adult-only meeting with the leader(s) of interested youth groups sometime either at the end of the school year or during the summer before a school year begins. Determine what the leaders are looking for their kids to get out of the partnership. Decide on a project meeting location and meeting frequency (monthly, semi-monthly).
*Confirm that the meeting location and necessary technology are available and reserve those days and times as far ahead as possible. Recruit and sign up adult volunteer members from your group to assist and oversee during each meeting date.
*Attend one of the youth group's meetings and introduce your group and it's mission to the youth members. Clearly articulate the goals and purpose of the digitization project to the youth members. Explain to them what their jobs will be during the process.
*Consider an 'open house' style of project meetings in which participants can come and go within a designated time frame at their convenience. (It's not as chaotic as it sounds, once kids understand their tasks and the process behind the project, they will be able to jump right in at any time.)
*Provide participants with (non-messy) light snacks or bite-sized candy. Participants will find their experience more enjoyable with food.
*Be prepared to sign-off on service hours, if necessary. Create a sign-in sheet or perhaps a simple form that can be easily filled out at each meeting, so participants can return them to their group leaders.
*Make it a yearly project, if possible. Youth organizations have a high-turnover rate; kids are continually 'graduating' out of groups and new members are always joining.
With good planning and an enthusiastic attitude, your society CAN successfully partner with local youth groups to accomplish great things towards preserving important pieces of your community's history.
©2017 Emily Kowalski Schroeder. All rights reserved.
Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Founder and Author of Growing Little Leaves
Partnering with the Indiana Historical Society to create educational programming for children and their caretakers.