Labor History Association Launches School-based Pilot Program As Part of Labor History in the Schools Legislative Initiative

18 Feb 2011 1:49 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

In December 2010, the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA) began gathering support for a legislative initiative, called Labor History in the Schools, with endorsement by the Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Board.  On February 1, the GNHLHA officially began work on a new pilot program called “Family Work History Project” in collaboration with two New Haven public schools teaching labor history as part of  this initiative. 

The Family Work History Project is a school-based residency in which students will learn to conduct oral history interviews with a mentor in the labor force and develop these interviews into essays.  The collaboration continues with the development a commissioned musical composition inspired by the student stories, as well as the development of a spoken-word piece to be read publicly by students, based on their collective stories.  The student piece and the musical composition will be performed on May 1, 2011 as part of the May Day Festival on the New Haven Green.

The GNHLHA will collaborate with teachers of 8th grade students from the Katherine Brennan School and 6th and 8th grade students from Worthington Hooker School, both in New Haven, CT.  Sheryl Hershonik, Principal at Worthington Hooker, jumped at the chance to collaborate on the project: “We're so glad to have the Greater New Haven Labor History Association work with our students. New Haven has a rich history of labor organizing from factory workers and dress shop seamstresses to teachers and other professionals. It is important for students to understand that working together for a common goal demands commitment and perseverance which can then lead to an improvement in the lives of individuals and families.”  Adds Principal Karen Lott of Brennan School, the collaboration will “connect students’ learning to the larger community in which they live.”

8th grade writing teacher Sandra Sprague of the Brennan School, a turn-around school struggling to improve student writing skills, feels that the program will help students to master key writing concepts required by state standards, but more importantly, the public performance aspect will instill much-needed pride.   Dianna Carter, 6th grade teacher at Worthington Hooker, said that the project dovetails perfectly with her curriculum on local history and collective bargaining, while inspiring students to explore possible career paths by interviewing mentors who have real work experiences to share.

The study of labor history in the schools not only ties in with already-mandated educational standards, it is an important component in preparing students for the work force. The CT AFL-CIO has endorsed the Labor History in the Schools legislative initiative and has aided in beginning to gather popular support.  "Labor education at a grassroots level is critical to strengthening the labor movement. The CT AFL-CIO supports the Greater New Haven Labor History Association in its goal of providing each child with the tools they need to think critically about their society as they enter the work force," said CT AFL-CIO President John Olsen, who recently spoke to 6th grade students about the integrity of work and the role of unions in creating good jobs and working conditions at a GNHLHA event at the Augusta Lewis Troup School.

Local professional musician Mike Kachuba, known for his curriculum-based work with children across Connecticut, will develop a song based on the student stories.  He will perform the song to accompany the student readings on May 1, 2011 as part of the May Day (International Workers’ Day) Celebration on the New Haven Green. 

For more information about Mike Kachuba’s work with children, visit http://web.mac.com/mikekachuba.

For information about the May Day celebration, visit www.maydaynewhaven.org. 

About the Greater New Haven Labor History Association

The Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA), the only labor history organization in Connecticut, tells the story of working class people in our region which otherwise would go untold.  Through research and preservation of stories, interviews, artifacts and documents, GNHLHA produces exhibits and events which illuminate our lives as workers.  The “New Haven’s Garment Workers: An Elm City Story” exhibit has toured throughout Connecticut since 2006. GNHLHA is currently preparing a new exhibit about workers at New Haven’s Winchester (U.S. Repeating Arms Company) plant, which had a major impact on the culture and political economy of the greater New Haven community.  GNHLHA is also seeking individual oral history interviews from retired workers through its “History Among Us” program. 

For more information about GNHLHA programs, visit www.laborhistory.org.

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 •  info@laborhistory.org •

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