Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB:

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Personalized learning at its most personal

Screen-Shot-2015-10-02-at-7.21.24-AMAs an off-shoot of a Story Preservation nature-based Learning Lab project, a fourth grader in an SPI Learning Lab subscriber school chose naturalist David Carroll, who is in our collection, as the subject of a research paper. The student is very interested in nature and conservation.


The teacher mentioned this to me two days before I was scheduled to visit with David so I asked him if, during our visit, he would be willing to video record a message specifically for this student – and he agreed.

Click here to view.


Educators: Learn how to spark student interest with SPI ~ and earn 3 graduate credits at New England College’s 4-day intensive Summer Institute

Story Preservation in partnership with New England College will offer a 3-graduate credit course this summer as part of New England College’s Summer Institute.

ED 6143 Story Preservation Initiative (SPI) Learning Lab: A Springboard to Project-based Learning
This innovative course provides deeper inquiry into Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab®, an oral history-based educational resource that combines primary source audio with project-based lessons for rich, multi-disciplinary learning. Participants will experience the power of sparking student interest in content using SPI’s collection of personal recordings.  Connecting the personal narratives of experts to content learning in the arts, sciences, humanities, and eyewitness accounts provides an exciting and unique springboard to project-based learning. Participants will learn to support students with developing orbital studies. This involves designing a question for study, developing a research plan and method for presenting their learning, and criteria to measure quality products. Through inquiry-based learning, participants will experience how rigorous and relevant personalized and differentiated instruction can increase student motivation and engagement that supports students as they develop expertise and become independent learners. (3 credits – June 26, 27, 28, 29) Instructors: Mary Kuechenmeister and Gina Aubin

For registration information please contact Kaitlyn Coe in the Education Division, at or 603.428.2340.

Hope to see you there!!

Getting by with a lot of help from our Friends

Story Preservation wishes to thank Morgan Blum Schneider the Director of Education at the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center in San Francisco for allowing us to use and share with Learning Lab partner schools the original lesson plan, which she developed, titled Surviving Hitler: A Love Story.  The lesson plan follows the story of Jutta and Helmuth Cords and their involvement with the plot to assassinate Hitler.  Jutta and Helmuth Cords daughter, Claudia Cords-Damon, shared her parents’ story with SPI.  As has been said on numerous occasions, the resulting recording “reads like a novel.”

To find out how your school can participate in the Story Preservation Learning Lab, go to:, or contact us at

The JFCS Holocaust Center is dedicated to the education, documentation, research, and remembrance of the Holocaust. The Holocaust Center is Northern California’s primary resource for Holocaust education, leading the effort to increase awareness among the general public about the causes and consequences of racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and indifference during the Holocaust and today.JFCS Holcoaust Center LOGO b&W.jpg

Getting by with a lot of help from our Friends

Story Preservation wishes to thank playwright Tom Anastasi for allowing us to use and share with Learning Lab partner schools his script for the play Surviving Evil.  The play is a theatrical depiction of the life of holocaust survivor Stephan Lewy, whose oral history is part of Story Preservation’s collection.

What better way to teach young people about the holocaust than to have them listen to the stories of those who survived it and then, as we are now able to offer, have them take on the roles of victims, witnesses, and perpetrators.

From Stephan’s Story Preservation oral history relative to Kristallnacht:

“What they did, the Germans, they took the kids. We were about roughly fifty girls and fifty boys. They put us into the synagogue, and they couldn’t torch it, because we had Gentile people living on either side. So, above the arc, there is an eternal light burning in every synagogue, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ours was a gas-fired light. It could be electric; it could be a large candle that burns for seven days, and so on. But ours was a gas-fired light. What they did, they cut the gas line to this eternal light and let the gas escape. We were all sitting in

these seats —one hundred kids. They walked out, locked the doors on us, and walked away, hoping that we would suffocate in the process. So, fortunately, one of the boys, who probably was about fourteen years old, had enough sense to take a chair and break some windows, figuring he would be punished for breaking the window, but that’s what saved our lives that night. There were 279 synagogues that were either burned or demolished that night.” 

The children of the Baruch Auerbach orphanage; Stephan Lewy, third row, far left.  Photo courtesy of Stephan Lewy

This is a Learning Lab project and play well suited as a way to observe the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938, and to observe Genocide Awareness Month, which in many states is observed during the month of April.

To find out more about SPI’s Learning Lab, go to: or contact Story Preservation at

Creative Ideas to Avoid the Summer Slide

This summer let your students dig deep into meaningful projects that will engage not only their minds but also their hearts. It’s all about stories, coupled with award winning books, and hands-on projects.

Here are just a few LEARN FROM THE GREATS ideas for Middle-High School students:


Have students listen to Maine Poet Laureate and 2015 Pen Award for Poetry winner Wesley McNair’s story found in the Learning Lab under ARTS / POETS and read his memoir The Words I Chose.
Assignment: Students should access Wes McNair’s archive at Colby College, Maine via hyperlink in Learning Lab, click Lovers of the Lost tab and read / listen to:

  • After My Stepfather’s Death
  • How I Became a Poet
  • My Father Going Away
  • Kuhre’s Farm

Write a short, one to two paragraph autobiographical sketch in prose on three or more of the following topics:

  • Love
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Life
  • Lessons
  • School
  • Future Plans

Turn the autobiographical sketches into poems. Option: Have students choose one of the poems and audio record it.



Have students listen to co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council Gus Speth’s story found in the Learning Lab – SCIENCE / EARTH / ENVIRONMENT and read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.


Understanding the history of the environmental movement.

Have students make a graphic timeline of the modern environmental movement with photographs and milestones detailed.


After reading Silent Spring have students research the plight of the monarch butterfly, further understanding the ongoing impact of herbicides and pesticides. Students should be ready to discuss their findings upon their return to school in late summer and, working in groups, determine what they can do to help the monarch in the local / school community and then put that plan into action.



Have students listen to Claudia Cords Damon’s story The Plot to Assassinate Hitler found in the Learning Lab under HUMANITIES / EUROPEAN HISTORY and read related book The White Rose, Munich 1942 – 1943 by Inge Scholl.

Assignment: Inform students that during the Holocaust there were many stories of those who bravely fought against the Nazi. Their assignment is to choose one person from either the Cords-Damon narrative or from The White Rose and research that person’s background more deeply. Students should be prepared to share their findings in the late summer / fall, which should presented in infographic format or in a one-to-two page narrative.



Have students listen to naturalist, author, illustrator, and MacArthur Fellow David Carroll’s story found in the Learning Lab under ART / BOOK ILLUSTRATORS / WRITERS (cross referenced under SCIENCE / EARTH / ENVIRONMENT) and read his book Following the Water.

Assignment: Students are to choose an area to visit daily (backyard, park, etc.) and keep a naturalist’s notebook. Teachers are encouraged to access the Sierra Club’s Keeping a Nature Journal article found here to help students understand the purpose and value of natural world journaling.

Looking for other ideas?  Just ask!  Write to us at:



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Story Preservation Initiative’s Learning Lab combines our primary source audio with project-based lesson plans for rich, multi-disciplinary learning.

Info graphics, photographs, transcriptions, book recommendations, and related links of interest round out each Learning Lab page, further piquing student’s curiosity and encouraging student-led inquiry.

The Learning Lab was developed using a ‘whole-school model’ so that all teachers and students in every participating school have access.

Our online forum allows for sharing of resources, outcomes, and experiences, creating both an intra-school and inter-school Community of Practice.

The site is available on a modestly priced subscription basis: $600 annually per school or $175 for a 3-month whole school subscription.  Funds generated are used to continue to grow the site – with more stories, lesson plans, and related resources added on a regular basis.

To find out more, click here:

To subscribe to the Learning Lab or to register for a 10-day free trial, click Login / Register on homepage.




Donating = <3

Each Story Preservation recording takes, on average, 40 hours to produce. That includes research, writing, recording, editing, transcribing, more editing, tracking, mastering, and – finally – distribution to libraries and upload to our blog and Learning Lab sites.

And that’s just the fun stuff!

Thousands of hours more are spent working to sustain the organization.

If you find value in what we do, please consider making a tax-deductible donation – in any amount that suits your budget.  Click here to donate, because …



Stories Matter

April is National Poetry Month – Get Inspired


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The SPI Learning Lab contains the voices and stories of nationally and internationally renowned poets. We combine their stories with suggestions for projects that engage students in the art and craft of poetry writing.  OUR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTEST is open to K-12 students from schools subscribing to the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab.  To subscribe to the Learning Lab or to register for a 10-day free trial, click Login / Register here. 

Prizes will be awarded in each of the following four grade categories:  Grades 1 – 3  /  4 – 6  / 7 – 9 / and 10 – 12.

Students can write on any subject and in any form they choose.  Looking for ideas? Here are some PROMPTS.


Middle / High:
  • Referencing Stephen Kuusisto’s narrative found in the Learning Lab – ARTS/ POETS with focus on Track 06 “Creating Images that Can’t be Seen,” write a poem that depicts the invisible.
  • Referencing Chard deNiord’s narrative with focus on Track 05 “The Cold Eye,” write a poem with adjectives and then a second poem with the adjectives removed.
  • Referencing Wesley McNair’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “First Poem” and Track 05 “Young Adulthood,” write a poem about a personal life experience as viewed from a distance.


  • Referencing Bruce McEver’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “Poet in a Business Suit,” write a poem that is inspired by a work of art.
  • Write a brief letter or email to a special relative or beloved pet and turn that letter into a poem with the help of
    READWRITETHINK Line Break Explorer.



Grand Prize Winner’s poems will be published on the Learning Lab site. Grand prize winners will also receive a custom designed framed print of a line from their winning poem. Grand Prize, as well as second and third place winners from each age group will receive a personal note of congratulations from Story Preservation Initiative National Poetry Month Contest judge, Wesley McNair.  (Maximum of four Grand Prize Winners, four Second Prize and four Third Prize Winners, representing one from each grade group).




Poet Philip Levine has called Wesley McNair “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He has won grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller Fellowships, two NEA grants in creative writing, and an Emmy Award.  He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress.  He was recently selected for a United States Artists Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists,” and in April of 2015, he was named as the recipient of the PEN New England Award for Poetry for his latest collection, The Lost Child: Ozark Poems.








Native American and Pilgrim Stories from the Plymouth Colony


We’ll be recording Carlton Bradford in March 2016. He is one of the last of the direct line descendants of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation. (Depicted above, the meeting between Governor William Bradford and Chief Massasoit).

As a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and a man who knows well his family history, Carlton will share with listeners rarely heard stories on life in the early years of the Plymouth Colony.

Courtesy of Gail Matthews and Yankee Cable Network, this recording will also include audio from an earlier interview of Carlton and Paul Weeden, also known as Deerfoot, one of the last of the direct line descendants of Chief Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620.

Of Squanto, another of the Wampanoag, Governor Bradford is known to have said:

Squanto  … “was a special instrument sent of God for [his] good beyond expectation.”

Bradford and Deerfoot share a rich and fascinating ancestral history and are today friends – echoing the time of their forefathers.

Cristina Dolan ⎥ Promoting Creativity, Diversity, and Literacy in Computer Science

AUDIO UP!  To listen, click links below.

Cristina Dolan will add her personal narrative to our collection this fall.  Hers is the first in our technology series – and we’re off to a great start!!  In fact, a perfect tech-start for Story Preservation Initiative’s Learning Lab where:

Primary Source Material + Project-Based Lesson Plans = BIG (fun) Learning

The copy that follows is taken from the TedX Stuyvesant website.  To listen to Cristina’s TedX Talk, go to:Cristina Dolan TedX Talk


In the early days of the Internet, MIT Media Lab alumna Cristina Dolan co-founded, which grew to be the tenth largest ISP after a successful IPO. In only five months, she conceived and built the OneMain cornerstone, Geographic Communities, into a profitable business. At its launch, the company’s IPO became the largest Internet public offering at its time, surpassing Amazon’s and eBay’s respective IPOs. Cristina has also held executive roles at Wordstream, IBM, and Oracle, among other organizations. 

As an engineer and self-described “solutionist”, Cristina appreciates the value of an engineering and computer science education. In October 2013, she launched Dream it. Code it. Win it., a non-profit organization to promote such instruction and celebrate the power of applied problem-solving. Finalists have launched more than six companies and the competition has attracted a diverse group of students from over forty countries.

Stories Matter