A Generation of Generations: Connecting Students to the Past

Melissa Tassoni
Even though Generations has been an important part of Shipley’s seventh grade curriculum since the early 1990s, the multi-disciplinary unit is more relevant than ever in the personal and academic lives of students.

Sure, some things about the unit have changed—like the time of year when it takes place and the specific teachers guiding students—but at its core, Generations is still about “who we are in relation to history,” says the project manual, which lays out the parameters of the nine assignments students are asked to complete during the final two weeks of the school year.

The Generations unit is also very much about exploring different ways of communicating, and students are given the opportunity to organize and present what they learn about their family and history in a variety of ways.

Through interviewing family members and friends, examining artifacts and memorabilia, engaging in activities and reading books their interview subjects did when they were growing up, students learn about the past and get a new perspective on their own lives.

In addition to giving students the opportunity to learn about themselves, Generations challenges them academically, too. With careful guidance, students manage and set their own deadlines to complete assignments, including a research project, a 5-7 page intergenerational narrative, and a retelling of a family story, among others.

Generations wraps up with a “Museum Reception,” where family members are invited to see the students’ work and sample their family recipes. It’s a true celebration for the ages.


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.