Community Histories: A Group Project

Illinois State Writing Project 2008

Members: Debra Blunier (EHS), Leah A. Nillas (IWU), Kevin Vernon (NCHS)


Bloomington, Eureka, and Normal all have either recently passed or are about to celebrate the towns’ sesquicentennials. We would like to involve our students and our communities in an outreach project that would celebrate these events by researching four distinct facets of life from four specific time periods: 1859, 1909, 1959, and the present. Important components of the assignment will include collaborative work on an audio-visual product and a technological connection between three classes, separated by age as well as geography, sharing and responding to the work.

The areas of concentration will be leisure, work, the military, education, technology and family life. Using primary sources, our classes could create several possible products, including

  • multimedia presentations (PowerPoint, PhotoStory narratives, etc.)

  • wiki pages linking primary sources

  • videos of interviews/live interviews to be included in presentations

  • monologues of historical personalities

In the classes, teams will be assigned to each of the areas of study. They will use their libraries and the sources listed in the wiki site to create an overview of these categories in each of the four time periods, specifically as they pertain to their town. The final product will contain an audio-visual presentation with both student writing and a photo for each group from each time. Due to various constraints and opportunities, each class will be able to work on different time frames and levels of expertise, but the connecting ingredient will be the technology.

For the demonstration: The team is going to create a wiki that ultimately will evolve into the one we will use in our classes. We will provide primary sources, links to the Library of Congress, and other sources to provide (hopefully) at least one photo for each category in each time period. Working collaboratively, class teams will write about their response to the photos, using guiding questions we will provide. Possible threads may include what more the team wishes to know about the photo, the personal response the photo may generate, connections from one time period to the next, or others.

A potential component for the teams may include searching sources on the wiki for more information about the photo, the era, or the discipline. Table 1 shows potential projects for each school.

Table 1



Multimedia Presentations





Eureka High School





Normal Community High School




Illinois Wesleyan University