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Making history more personal

Sixth-graders at Thurston Middle School present their Oral History projects, where they interviewed people at least 50 years old.

March 29, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Sixth-grader Sophie Wilkes, left, laughs at the sight of old photos with local artist Olivia Batchelder, the subject of her three-day oral history project at Thurston School.
Sixth-grader Sophie Wilkes, left, laughs at the sight… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Pulitzer Prize winners, foreign athletes, successful business people and veterans were just some of the fascinating people who crowded the Thurston Middle School auditorium this week.

The sixth-grade Oral History project asks students to interview someone at least 50 years older and present their findings to their classmates.

The school held its annual luncheon Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, when students gave a 30-second presentation about their person, asking their interviewee to stand to applause and usually ending with "thank you for sharing your life with me."

"I think it's an invaluable experience for students to be able to learn about history through the perspective of someone close to them," sixth-grade language arts teacher Sarah Schaeffer said Tuesday. "It helps to close generational gaps and see the people they interview in a new light."

Many locals were in the audience at Tuesday's luncheon, such as artist Olivia Batchelder, who was interviewed by sixth-grader Sophie Wilkes.

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A common remark from the students was how much they enjoyed getting to know a grandparent better or learn interesting facts about a friend they never knew.

Massimo Lucidi, 12, said he was excited to find out his Italian grandfather, Dalfrano Lucidi, played professional soccer in Foligno, Italy.

"I was shocked to learn he owned more than 80 hotels in his lifetime," Angelina Polselli, 11, said about her father, Remo Polselli.

Vasco Possley, 12, spoke about his father, Maurice Possley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Chicago Tribune reporter.

Dylan Miller, 11, interviewed Donn Hubbard and found out that he had been to Hiroshima, Japan.

Sixth-grader Daniel Vergara got laughs as he went slightly past the 30-second mark, enumerating the many virtues of his Peruvian grandmother and the wise advice she's given him.

Principal Jenny Salberg said students and interviewees gain a lot from the experience — the students learn about another person and the interviewee is recognized.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity to honor our families and community with their rich history," Salberg said.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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