In today’s world, we tend to look to the future for all of the answers. We rely on technological, medical, and cultural advances in order to solve problems, and routinely forget the past’s ingenious ideas. But as society continues to move forward, the memories behind us are rapidly fading.
This concept was paralleled in Joplin, Missouri. On May 22, 2011, an F5 tornado devastated nearly one third of the town, killing 162 people and injuring hundreds more. Our city lost friends, family, and even pieces of our history. Stories, photographs, and dozens of artifacts were destroyed, leaving us with even fewer memories of the past than we had.
The students of Joplin High School took the initiative to interview locals about the stories of our community in order to preserve the accounts still available to us for generations to come. Topics included anecdotes of the Joplin people, ways of life in other times, and even skill and careers in history. Kathleen Reiboldt, a sophomore communication arts teacher at the school, was at the head of the project, known as Ozarkapedia. Each student was to give an interview to an elderly friend or relative and write a piece for the assignment. Every article underwent a multitude revisions executed by other students, and when an article was finally complete, it was published on the website.
Justin Crawford, a technology specialist at the school, was a key part of the Ozarkapedia. His assistance to the classes with editing workshops and setting up the website was critical in launching the site. He constantly stressed the importance of keeping these records alive for us to use in the future.
Our students have poured their hearts and numerous hours into this website. The Ozarkapedia project allowed the students to improve their skills as writers, as well as learn a valuable lesson. Throughout the experience, the sophomore class was taught that, although it is good to look to the future, looking back on days gone by can teach us a lot about what is to come.