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"Power Lines"
Lesson 1: Powerless? - Oral History Project
Assignment Sheet

This assignment is based on an assignment titled "Gather Your Own History: Oral History Project" in Finding Katahdin: An Exploration of Maine History, by Amy Hassinger, University of Maine Press, forthcoming, 2000.

What was it like to live without electrical power? How was electricity used when it first started? Did people take it for granted, as we do now? In this assignment, you will have a chance to find out the answers to these questions, as well as many more of your own.


1. Choose someone to interview. The person you choose should be over 60 years old. He or she can be a relative, a friend, or a community member. Make sure you ask the person you choose if he or she would like to be interviewed before you prepare your questions.

2. Prepare a list of questions to ask your interviewee. You might want to watch Power Lines again to help you get some ideas. Think about what kinds of things your interviewee will know about. Did they live in a time without electricity? Do they remember if they used to save energy, or what tools they used electrical power for when they were kids? Your questions should be thought-provocative and should get your interviewee talking. Have your questions approved by your teacher before the interview.

3. Set up an appointment with your interviewee. Make sure it is a convenient time for him or her. Let him or her know approximately how long the interview will last. Write down the date and time.

4. Make sure you practice using your tape recorder before you get to the interview. Practice some of your interview questions with a parent or friend, using the equipment. Make sure you know how to work the machine, how loudly you need to speak, and where the microphone is.

5. Make sure you have everything with you before you leave for your interview (tape recorder, blank tape, extra batteries, notebook, pen or pencil, prepared questions). Sometimes technical problems can arise (and they often do at the least convenient times), so it's important to have a pen and paper, in case your tape recorder isn't working.

6. Listen to the interview after you've finished and mark down any interesting moments. Use what you learned in the interview to write a paper comparing the use of electricity in the past to the way we use electricity now. Your paper should be 2-3 pages long, typed, and double-spaced, and should include quotations from your interview to help support the points you make. You may need to replay the interview several times to make sure the quotes you use are accurate. Once you write your paper, fill out your evaluation rubric.

7. Hand in your tape, your paper, and your evaluation rubric to your teacher by the due date.

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