Interview with Paul Wilgenkamp.
[MP3, 13.8 MB]
"Teaching from the Grave" may sound like the latest cinematic thriller, but this innovative project, developed by Paul Wilgenkamp, transforms students into local history teachers and helps support the local community. By partnering with Cablevision and The Three Village Historical Society, Wilgenkamp hoped to increase community awareness of the need for local cemetery preservation, raise funds, and ultimately provide an exciting hands-on learning opportunity for students. The project received the History Channel's 2005 Save Our History Award, with the $10,000 prize going to purchase a news studio for the school. For the project, Wilgenkamp's sixth-grade students at Minnesauke Elementary School went on a full-day field trip to Setauket Presbyterian Church graveyard to map and collect historic information from tombstones. Over the next several months, the students analyzed the data by creating spreadsheets and graphs and researched historical literature to explain trends in the data. When the materials were compiled, the students correlated the information and presented it to the community, government officials, and history professionals. Through outreach and public relations help from Cablevision, several local officials and newspaper reporters attended the students' school presentation. The officials were so impressed, they allocated government funds to support ongoing graveyard restoration and increase community volunteerism. Cablevision also created an online feature promoting the project on its www.powertolearn.com
Web site and aired a story about it on their "Neighborhood Journal" television program. The local success of the program has reached across the country. The History Channel included the completed project and lesson plans in its 2005 Educator's Manual and Cablevision included the complete plans and activities on its Web site.