Amazing Ben, the 13-Year-Old Oral Historian
life is important, is historic, and should be remembered."
Meyers, age 13
Amazing young oral historian,
Eagles Landing Middle School, West Boca, Florida
"Ben reminds me of another historian/archivist-Steven Spielberg and his Shoah Project. Keep it up, Ben!
Woodland Hills, California
Amazing Ben Meyers is 13 years old and an 8th grader at Eagles Landing Middle School in Boca Raton, Florida. He has always been fascinated by history - reading and researching it is his passion. Because Ben has a large extended family, he has been fortunate enough to know six of his eight great-grandparents, three of whom are still living and with whom he is very close. In talking with them over the years, he began to develop a series of interview-type questions for them relating to the subjects that he was studying at the time. This ultimately developed into a list of 87 interview questions.
Given his love of history and the impact of his relationships with his great-grandparents, Ben decided to conduct interviews of elderly people in his community and create "oral histories." He called his project the "Treasury of Lives."
With some research, Ben discovered the Mae Volen Senior Center in Boca Raton, Florida. After contacting them and submitting a plan of what he hoped to do, the head of Mae Volen eagerly welcomed Ben and his project. Little did Ben know, Mae Volen had set as a goal to create an inter-generational program and Ben's Treasury of Lives fit right in! There was a little concern at the beginning that the folks at the center might not be too eager to be interviewed, but amazing Ben's warm smile and engaging manner won them over, and he has had a steady stream of volunteers ever since. In fact, after just a few minutes with Ben, even the shyest participants talk away as fast as he can write down their answers.
Ben types up his notes from the interviews and produces two copies. One is kept at the Mae Volen Senior Center library. The other is sent to the families of the people interviewed. Many of the families live far away, and these "oral histories" provide a lot of information about their loved ones that many did not know and may have never known.
It has been an educational and truly wonderful experience for Ben. But that doesn't hold a candle to what it has meant to those people being interviewed. Ben spends every day that he doesn't have school at Mae Volen. This year, he also started the Treasury of Lives club at his school. He plans to expand the project to include many students who can spread out and conduct interviews at several senior centers in his community. Ben thought he knew history before he began this project. Now he knows it first hand through the lives of truly amazing people right in his hometown.
Using Oral History - A Lesson from the American Memory project files, the Library of Congress: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/lessons/oralhist/ohhome.html
The New Americans -- Teacher Guide -- Oral Histories: www.pbs.org/newamericans/6.0/html/oralhistory.html
Team Approach to Oral History: www.askeric.org/cgi-bin/printlessons.cgi/Virtual
Oral History in the Classroom: A seven-part series by Kathryn Walbert: www.learnnc.org/Index.nsf/doc/oh-intro0406