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Honors English 12 students delving into Hampton's past to create digital archive

Honors English 12 students delving into Hampton's past to create digital archive
Zachary D'Amico

HHS students in Honors English 12 have begun working on a project to examine old Hampton-based newspaper clippings, evaluating their historical significance and relevance to the present day. Students will ultimately share their discoveries with the community by creating a dedicated website that digitizes, catalogs, and annotates these historical and local artifacts.
Erin Marron, the high school's new Library Media Specialist, has inherited massive folders full of newspaper clippings from 1992-2008 and wondered what to do with them. Recognizing the value of Hampton's history, the Honors English 12 classes have built a collective commitment for a shared goal of digitizing these 27 years of history.
“We understand that working together daily on this is generating solutions to this data problem,” said Savina Cupps, HHS English teacher. “Starting in small groups devoted to specific years, we are reading each clipping and coming up with meaningful categories to share across the years.”
As students read and share clippings and news from the community’s and school’s past with their small groups, they must listen effectively to decipher meaning and context to understand other perspectives. Each group has had to produce a workable system for organizing hundreds of articles about a variety of topics.
“As a whole class, students will narrow the data piles into overarching topics that will be the subjects of websites,” said Cupps. “When they publish their work for the school and the wider community, they will be further developing their written and digital skills.”
Learner's Mindset
In the class’s current era of literary study — the Enlightenment — the first English dictionaries, newspapers, and encyclopedias were published. Rather than simply reading or reading about these texts, students are experiencing the work of producing and cataloging non-fiction text themselves.
“Students have become so invested in the research that they’ve asked for an additional day to dig deeper, experiencing first-hand the human need to organize and share information that is factual and meaningful to a community,” said Cupps. “Their engagement is contagious, and many teachers have stopped by to ask what they’re so interested in. Empowered by the realization that they are shaping Hampton’s history, they are positive and excited about the work they’re doing.”
Critical Thinking
One aspect of the project is that students are evaluating and creating solutions that are mindful of the impact on other parts of a system. More importantly, they are making decisions about how to best share artifacts, currently organized by year, into topics that are more relevant and interesting to modern readers and researchers within our community. Recognizing the wave of historical change to data and libraries, they are reconstructing the 20th-century way of cataloging into one more applicable to the 21st century.