While I applaud any effort to get school students interested in genealogy, I can't help but cringe every time I get an email from a student who needs to know the meaning of his surname for a school project. There are so many better applications of family history as a learning tool - oral histories, immigration, DNA.... One teacher who recently contacted me takes his students on annual field trip to Ellis Island where they learn about the immigrant experience, and search for names on the Wall of Honor. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from the PBS documentary series African American Lives, has spoken about the many opportunities for using genealogy and DNA research to "revolutionize the way we teach history and science to African American students." For teachers who don't want to get into student family histories and the emotional finds that can sometimes uncover, there are also other options - including researching an influential figure from the local community, or interviewing local WWII veterans and preserving their stories.
What ideas do you have for incorporating genealogy in the classroom? Share them below in the comments. Let's help get students excited about the past!