Living Through History

Suffield students enrolled in Mrs. Krasemann’s history classes (European Studies; Foundations of Modern History; Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Behavior; European Studies Honors) and Mrs. Vianney’s AP US History classes were assigned the unique opportunity to produce primary sources documenting how everyday Americans are managing social distancing and self-isolation protocols. US President Donald Trump has identified the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic as “the most significant event in global history since World War II.”

The ongoing remote learning project will be completed throughout the spring term and tasks students to witness and document history as it is occurring. The assignment consists of three parts: (1) a weekly written journal, photo journal, and video journal; (2) choice of a drawing, painting, or political cartoon, two documented informational interviews, a scrapbook or social media diary, or one scripted podcast; (3) a one-page written reflection examining the pandemic’s long-term effects on modern-day America and community life at Suffield Academy.

“Right away I recognized we are living through an extraordinary time and wanted our students to record their thoughts as historian citizens,” says Krasemann in describing the inspiration behind the project. “This is for the students themselves who will be cataloguing this catastrophic event in real time, and who will be providing a foundation of primary resources for our faculty to teach in next year’s history classes or in courses five, ten, and twenty years from now. This exercise should accurately demonstrate to them how our history is written.”

Mrs. Vianney commented, “An educator and fellow AP US History teacher named Daniel Hoppe originally posted this project on Facebook, and what Beth [Mrs. Krasemann] and I are doing is heavily borrowed from his project. My AP US students deal with primary sources all the time, and this journaling of the COVID-19 pandemic gives them a chance to be creators and authors of sources that historians might use in the future. While they and I both know it’s not entirely authentic, it will still provide important insights. As a class we will also be comparing World War I and the Spanish Flu to uncover fascinating comparisons. I personally have some political cartoons and newspapers ads from 1918 that look almost identical to what we are seeing today.”

CJ Mauthe is a freshman from Rumson, New Jersey, who recorded the following diary passage on April 5: “When I left school for March break, little did I know I would not be returning until September, if not later. We had planned on attending the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden but all sporting events are cancelled or postponed. My sleeping schedule has gotten really messed up while in quarantine and we have a new puppy to train and love. I feel badly for those less fortunate who are unemployed and struggling to get food. I couldn’t imagine working so hard for a career only to have it stripped away by this incredible pandemic. I’ve submitted a photo of people in the marketplace wearing protective masks and gloves to prevent the spread of this novel virus.”

A freshman from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Emilia Boino submitted the following COVID-19 update on April 7: 1,363,365 confirmed cases worldwide; 367,920 confirmed cases United States; 13,837 confirmed cases Massachusetts. He added, “Everyone is home except for my dad whose work in construction remains essential. It is quiet for the most part. I have remote, 30-minute classes daily and in between I complete my homework. I work at a desk in our living room. After classes I go for a run along the sidewalks in town. When I pass people, we are supposed to remain a distance of six feet apart. Some people go way around me. Others take up the whole sidewalk so I go around them. And some just don’t seem to care at all. I saw a chalk drawing scribed in a driveway that read: Stop, Pray, Love. I submitted this photo because it is a simple example of the kindness demonstrated by our neighbors. These words are a reminder to all of us to give thanks to the many doctors and nurses selflessly and courageously soldering the front lines. We all need a moment to stop and hope that our loved ones are safe and healthy.”

From Southwick, Massachusetts, freshman Michelle St. Jacques recorded this journal entry: “My number one concern right now is that people will stop social distancing after a few more weeks, causing another outbreak and extended delay to our fall term. We need to listen to authorities and continue social distancing to keep the virus contained. I’ve submitted a photo of our pantry as it slowly shrinks in size. While it is enough to get us through the next few weeks, it is increasingly scary how shopping at the grocery store has become so dangerous. I’ve also included a scrapbook I made using newspaper clippings that address the effects of COVID-19.”

And finally Aiden Longley, a freshman from Westfield, Massachusetts, documented on April 7, “I haven’t seen anyone outside my family for three weeks. I’ve tried to maintain friendships utilizing FaceTime and Xbox video games. Most of my friends are in the same situation no matter where they live. We have close to 150 cases now in town and don’t leave the house except when low on food supplies. The highlight of my day is when we all sit down after dinner to play card games. Quarantine has lots of negatives but spending time alone with my family and dog has been very positive. Many, many Americans are being laid off from their jobs and those who can are working from home. I submitted this photo of a typical sign hanging in 90% of the stores and business around town. It reads: Sorry We’re Closed.”