Vartan Gregorian Elementary School’s Parent/Teacher Organization was awarded a 2013 Major Grant of $10,000 in support of the I WAS THERE Project, a classroom and community program that uses oral histories and the arts to engage 4th and 5th grade students in learning about the history and life of their school, the Fox Point community, and the natural environment that surrounds them. This powerful cross-disciplinary approach provides an opportunity for kids to talk with and learn from people in the community who have played a role in making history.
Each year, the program focuses on a new theme such as: A Taste of Home: Food as Connector to Culture, Community and Local Geography. One hundred and thirty five students became oral historians and interviewed chefs from local restaurants, a food sustainability program director, and a local food inspector. They learned about the history, culture, technology, and science of food through visits from Brown Science and a field trip to the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University. Students created food memoir journals with a local book binder to capture stories of family and cultural food traditions, and created recipe poems with the project’s writer in residence. The program’s interactive final event featured food tastings from neighborhood families and restaurants, included booths from each of the program activities, and welcomed over 200 community residents—parents, students, interviewees, teachers, and neighborhood members.