Wisconsin Students Capture Senior Citizen Stories Using Soundtrap

The following guest blog post is written by Page Leahy, District Library Media Director at Platteville Public Schools in Wisconsin. 

As a school library media specialist, I am always thinking about how to encourage natural curiosity and independent learning.  I have three RTI (Response to Intervention) enrichment classes daily, and students complete projects that connect to the world around them.  Soundtrap helped me with a vision that I had to connect students to local senior citizens to create oral histories.

The senior center in our small community of Platteville, WI lost its physical space in the spring of 2017, and the school district was able to offer a place for the senior center to meet within one of our underutilized buildings.  This opened up an opportunity for my students during the 2017-18 school year as the new meeting spot was within a five-minute walk from our school. My sixth-grade students had their RTI time right before lunch, which gave us a large window of time.

Working with the senior center staff, I arranged for students to walk over to the senior center once a week to have lunch with the seniors.  Students sat with the same senior over a period of nine weeks, and both the seniors and the students spent time getting to know one another. Occasionally, students would come to the lunch with a focus, such as lists of questions about the senior’s childhood, or even specific questions like “What is an icebox?”  Seniors brought in pictures and old yearbooks and often brought small treats for the students.

Students used iPads to record stories and oral histories of the seniors that they connected with.  Seniors shared a wide variety of stories, ranging from when a school burned down to when a retired principal got in trouble with his superintendent for playing baseball with his students.

Once back at school, my students uploaded their audio recordings to their Google accounts, and we created accounts with SoundTrap on their Chromebooks.  Students spent one RTI time playing with Soundtrap, getting familiar with the program. Students then imported their audio, added an introduction, and played with the quality of sound.  Soundtrap was really easy for students to work with.

We did come across a few hiccups, a couple of which were completely unanticipated.  Unfortunately, we had two of our seniors pass away during our project, and this affected our students greatly.  We learned how to write condolence letters, and those students recorded themselves talking about what they learned from their seniors.  We also found that we should have been recording the entire time so that there was more usable content. Some seniors, once they told a particular story to the students, did not want to tell it a second time for the recording.

Students and seniors both felt that this was an enjoyable project, and I know that participants on both ends looked forward to the weekly lunch.

This project will definitely continue this year with a new batch of sixth graders.  In the evolution of the project, I will probably use old photographs of our community as inspiration for more locally specific stories.  I appreciate that SoundTrap made my vision easy to complete.

Enjoy this fantastic project sample: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zmzgcPKwV6eyFoGZioOZPlRnNam31A7S/view