SESP students work to preserve elder voices and stories

SESP students work to preserve elder voices and stories

Regina Logan Professor Regina Logan

Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) students plan to interview elders as part of “The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2016,” a national education project that works to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.

Undergraduates in Regina Logan's "Adulthood and Aging" class, one of SESP's core offerings,  are regularly tasked with recording an interview with an adult over the age of 70. 

This year, Logan enlisted the help of Alyssa Dyar, a senior instructional technologist at SESP. Logan's class can now download the StoryCorps app and join the SESP 203 StoryCorps community by submitting their work to the Great Thanksgiving Listen, where it will be preserved at the Library of Congress.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to utilize technology in the classroom, but the main reason is to document the voices of two generations in a relationship to each other,” said Logan, research assistant professor and the director of the Foley Longitudinal Study of Adulthood. “It’s a chance to create a community of students and elders both here in SESP and nationally.”

The Great Thanksgiving Listen was started in 2015 to create an oral history of the United States by recording an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving weekend using the StoryCorps app. In 2015, thousands of high schools from all 50 states participated and preserved over 50,500 individual recordings at the Library of Congress.   

 The initiative targets high school students and includes a teacher toolkit, but the idea has clearly spread beyond teenagers. 

For Logan, it dovetails perfectly with her class, "Adulthood and Aging SESP 203," which is taught from the perspective that development continues throughout life and is affected by race, ethnicity, class and gender. The students learn about the major developmental issues of adulthood, from age of 18 through middle, old age and the end of life.

On Monday, students will visit residents of The Mather, a senior living community in Evanston. The intergenerational exchanges are always a highlight and give students living examples of the life stages they’re reading about in class, including widowhood and retirement, Logan said.

“It’s a great way to look at research on adulthood and apply it,” Logan said. “It also can change the students’ attitudes of what it means to be an older adult. They realize everyone has a story to tell.” 

Learn more about Northwestern's Human Development and Psychological Services concentration.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 11/22/16