Pearl Harbor is an event that happened in modern history, and in the early 21st century there are many people still alive that can remember what that day was like. These first-hand stories will not be available for much longer, as we move further away from that date. While there are still enough people that can offer first-hand experiences of what life was like before, during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, projects to collect their stories can be very important documentation for the historical record.
Pearl Harbor Book
Your school can make a book of memories about Pearl Harbor from interviews with people who were alive when it happened. Most families will have a grandparent, great grandparent, or family friend that can talk about what it was like during that invasion. You can even call a local senior center and ask for some volunteers to speak with the children about their stories. A local veterans group could offer a wealth of information and you can ask to interview those who were at Pearl Harbor or in the service at the time. You can have a class trip by taking the older grades to one of these centers to interview people.
Decide on questions and interview strategies before meeting the people who are willing to share their stories. You can involve many different grade levels in the project and make the book a large record of history for generations to come. You can ask older students to do a 200- or 300-word article each to add to the book. The younger grades can make artwork for this book, which can be displayed along with the stories. The artwork might include pictures of the ships lost, memorials of Pearl Harbor, and maps. Hold a contest to pick the picture for the cover.
Pearl Harbor Timeline
Have the students create a timeline to hang in the lobby of the school, and include interviews and artwork in the appropriate places.
Start with the week before Pearl Harbor when the Japanese ships were making their way to Hawaii. One grade can make pictures of the ships and write a few paragraphs about the type of ship it was, the name of the ships plus their captains. Interviews for this period of the timeline can be about how life was before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The next portion of the timeline will be the actual Pearl Harbor attack. Use interviews and quotes from various people who were there or who listened to it happening on their radios. Pictures of the US ships and buildings along with maps of Pearl Harbor and the area of devastation can be some of the artwork assigned for this part of the timeline.
Pearl Harbor was a major rebuilding project, which is another piece you can add to the timeline, along with all the memorials that have been erected to commemorate the lives lost. Place paragraphs of information that have been researched by the students along the timeline next to the maps and pictures. Another important piece would be information on how this attack changed the lives of Americans taken from the interviews the kids have done.