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Culture hacking: StoryCorps for seniors

February 10, 2012

Tonight, I went to a reading by Dave Isay, creater of the NPR StoryCorps project. The project is simple—find a person whose story you’d like to hear and invite them to a StoryCorps recording facility. There, you will interview that person with the help of a trained facilitator for 40 minutes. At the end of the session, you go home with a CD recording of the interview, while a second copy is archived with the Library of Congress. To-date, StoryCorps has recorded over 40,000 interviews, and is currently making a special effort to record the stories of teachers.

The reading consisted of Isay playing some of his personal favorite stories on the theme of love. The stories were tremendously moving; I think each brought me to tears. Along the way, Isay stressed the act of love that is listening. It’s an incredible gift to spend 40 minutes listening to someone’s story, and it reminds us of our shared humanity. I was reminded of this very thoughtful essay on Public Acts of Listening by Beth Friese for the edu180atl project, which shares a lot of the same motivations as StoryCorps.

As I was walking out of the program, I suddenly had a flash of an idea for a culture hack. What if you brought the StoryCorps idea to a school? I could think of so many ways that this could be an incredible project—start by collect the stories of the staff and share them on a blog. This could help to strengthen the connections of students with the adults around them. I also thought of how this might be used with students—collect the stories of the senior class. Underclassmen could select a senior to interview, and collect stories of things that senior is most proud of from his/her high school career, advice for new students, and so much more. Then the school could give the senior a recording of this interview as a keepsake, add it to the archives, and possibly even pass along some of the interviews to the next class of freshmen, which would help the seniors to create a greater legacy and pass along their wisdom to the underclassmen. The costs would be minimal—many schools likely have all the recording equipment they need to produce high quality recordings. I know I would love to have a recording of my 18 year-old self discussing my experiences in high school and hopes for the future, mostly just to see how clueless I was at that time.

So when will you tell your story?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2012 6:44 am

    Thanks for sharing this idea John! Gets me thinking about how schooling, the act of going to school, is a very personal experience. What is going on in the minds of our students after a few years to schooling? How would they describe their experience through story and an interview?


    • February 11, 2012 10:08 am

      Yes—I know some schools have students do detailed exit interviews—usually in the form of essays, but I imagine this could be an outstanding addition.

      But if this were launched as a student initiative by underclassmen to preserve the wisdom of the senior class, I think it could be even more powerful. It would be a great honor for a senior to be invited by an underclassmen to share his/her story, and it might remind seniors of all the incredible things they have left to give the school in those final few months, which may even help to ward off senioritis.

  2. February 11, 2012 10:05 am

    As I think about this more I think about how much this could be extended to other realms. Most physics departments are small—so why not do a StoryCorps project with senior physics majors? I think their stories could be an excellent tool for helping to recruit more majors.

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