West Virginia Students Give Take on John Brown's Raid in Video Project


Middle school students in West Virginia are creating vodcasts to share their take on abolitionist John Brown's attack on slavery. The multimedia project started a year ago when park officials at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park approached the Harpers Ferry Middle School about partnering on a project.

Sponsored by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the service-based learning project is a student-inspired initiative that will create six wireless video vignettes or vodcasts, offering middle-school students' perspectives on the famous John Brown Raid in Harpers Ferry, which set off fighting in the American Civil War. Six teams of students have completed storyboards and scripts and now are doing video production.

"We all experience life differently, and the student viewpoint is both special and unique," said Cate Magennis Wyatt, president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Students relate best to other students--their peers. So why not take a look at history through their eyes, using their lens to focus on these historically significant events, bringing them to life for young people around the world to appreciate."

Based on personal hands-on experiences in the park and analysis of primary source documents, the students have selected pivotal events related to the raid to focus on. Then, they serve as writers, editors, photographers, choreographers, and videographers to produce the six two-minute mini-documentaries.

Once the vodcasts are completed, they'll be made available on the park's Web site. Visitors will also be encouraged to download the movies onto personal multimedia players to use while visiting the park.

With the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at its door step, the park sought a new and different way to bond with young people and share information about the area and its history.

"We know that today's young people are connected to a high-tech media world," said Dennis Frye, chief historian of the park. "We saw this as a terrific opportunity to let students connect the past to the present and retell a story in their own voices while using their own vision and their own medium.

"The immediacy of the technology combined with their fresh perspective will enrich the park experience for visitors of all ages," Frye added.

Bruce Milhans, spokesman for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said, "We believe that this service learning project will become a model for federal agencies and historic preservation organizations across the country, and encourage other heritage sites to work with their neighboring schools to produce partnerships that benefit students, their communities, and the nation."

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is a non-profit, four-state, public-private partnership that has developed and underwritten a number of educational programs. The President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of the nation's historic resources and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.