Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Innovative Genealogy Education

This week, a Forbes post highlighted Ann Miura-Ko, "the most powerful woman in startups."  She made some fantastic remarks about education and the future success of our children.  The four strategies she recommends for "innovative education" include:


  1. Identify children’s passions, and teach them through that passion.
  2. Teach kids through family history
  3. Teach kids why we do things, not just what to do.
  4. Be a mentor
  5. Brilliant! As a parent and genealogy teacher, all four of these strategies make me excited. Let me apply Ann's strategies to an "innovative genealogy education":

    1. Identify children’s passions, and teach them through that passion. Any genealogist who has tried to teach children knows that it's only successful if we approach it from the right angle.  If the kid/student is not passionate about genealogy, we need to look for the element of their family history that does excite them and take it from there.  Example: My son loves basketball (and any sport or competition).  He's passionate about it.  The first place to point him, then, is to the story of his great-grandfather, who played ball in college (Go, BYU Cougars!)  He can connect with his ancestor because they shared the same passion for basketball.  


    We can take it a step further by using my son's love for competition to make genealogy a game.  How about a family indexing competition? Who can find Grandpa on the census first?  Ready, set, GO!

    2. Teach kids through family history. I'm not sure the local school districts are thinking about this as much as they should, but I hope parents are.  Family history empowers children.  It gives them perspective.  They can learn so many things from their own family's history ... it strengthens them and builds their character!  They can learn from plain-old history, too, but when we put their family into the context of that history, children's eyes are opened and they can relate.  History teachers, take note.

    3. Teach kids why we do things, not just what to do. I hope this is obvious. If you're not teaching your children WHY family history is important, it will be tough for them to find motivation. I can show my teenager how to find his ancestor in an online database, but until he knows why the record exists, what it's useful for, he'll be bored out of his head.  He's likely to forget the process.  Why do we research our families?  You might ask yourself this question before you try to get the kids involved. And there are a hundred good answers to that question (that will have to be a post for another day).

    4. Be a mentor. They can't do it without you.  Children need parents and teachers to guide them, to show them which activities in life have lasting value.  They need instruction.  They don't need you to do it for them, but they do need your support.  Mentors help and inspire people.  That's the kind of genealogy teacher and parent I want to be.

    Ann Miura-Ko may have been strategizing about how to make successful, innovative business leaders out of children, but I think her principles have excellent application for their education in general, and certainly for genealogy education.

    For more of my thoughts regarding involving children in family history, see my article "Involving Children in Family History" in this fall's issue of UGA's quarterly publication Crossroads.

    Jana