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South Jordan Journal

Grandparents’ stories engage Daybreak fourth-graders

Oct 28, 2016 12:45PM ● By Julie Slama

Daybreak Elementary fourth-graders Alivia Moore and Harlan Olson show their classmates’ books created from photos, drawings, quotes and interviews with their grandparents. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan, Utah - Daybreak Elementary fourth-grader Harlan Olson appreciates his grandmother, Barbara Elaine Weber Harlan, coming to his soccer games and piano recitals, but through a class assignment to interview a grandparent, he learned “we’re similar in lots of ways.”

Harlan asked her questions ranging from her first memory — sitting in a high chair hearing her cousins laugh as she spit up oatmeal — to where was she during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack — getting ready for work with the television on.

“I know more about my grandma than I knew before,” he said about interviewing her. “I like to talk to my grandma and see what the past was like. She’d show me photos and told me answers to my questions. She’s going on a mission (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to Venezuela, so I’m glad I got a chance to know her better before she’ll be gone awhile.”

The grandparent interview assignment encouraged students to interview a grandparent or living relative and record responses, which not only preserves culture and family history but engages students in a conversation with their grandparents, their teacher Tawna Pippin said.

“This is a valuable experience where they may learn a grandparent fought in a war or played in the NFL,” she said. “Often, the children learn about the houses they lived in, their role models, how they met their spouse and they did for fun growing up.”

Students also learned that their grandparents’ parents may have read them books such as “Tom Sawyer” and how some of them thought color televisions, computers, airplanes and rockets were one of the greatest inventions ever.  Some grandparents recalled hanging out at soda fountains on Main Street while many recounted stories of picking fruit or working in the fields when they were younger. They told stories of their pets, their first crushes and their first jobs, including one grandparent who said it was, “working at Snelgrove because I could eat all the ice cream I wanted.”

Pippin, who said that the students also learned a candy bar cost 5 cents and a gallon of gas was about 29 cents, then had the students create a paper lap book. The cover included a portrait, either a photograph or drawn, of their grandparent that was cut in half, so the pages would open into a book. The inside included the interview, photos, quotes or other information they learned. 

Pippin said the assignment tied into Grandparents’ Day. After students gave their oral presentations, their final projects were displayed on a school bulletin board.

“One cool story (was that) one mom told me her father passed away about 10 years ago, (but) she was able to pull out her report she did in elementary school on her dad and share some things about her father with her child,” Pippin said. “This was a special bonus; hopefully these kids will have learned something and will keep it for years to come.” 

Alivia Moore, who likes to spend time with her dad’s mother, said she planned to give her report to her grandmother as a thank-you for letting her interview her. Alivia said she used some of the questions that were provided but came up with her own questions as well.

“She told me she grew up in a small pioneer house in Riverton where she was a tomboy and played kickball with all the boys,” Alivia said. “Her first job she worked for her dad and earned 10 cents for every chore she did for the business until she was 16 and became a waitress at a diner. She had lots of siblings and told me how my grandpa dated her sister first.”

Although Alivia is close to her grandma, “she loves Elvis, so we listen to his songs all the time, and we both like art so we do that and joke around,” she said she learned more about her during this assignment.

“I’ve heard some of the stories before, but now I know more and will remember more stories and keep these memories forever,” she said.