Spotlight on 7th Grade History: Finding Strengths and Diversity in Our Personal Stories

The Middle School history curriculum is built around the idea that other people matter and that every story matters. “History is a collection of stories, and this year we will explore a wide collection of stories from different authors, viewpoints, and cultural lenses,” reads the introduction to the seventh grade’s Personal History assignment. “In our study of history, it is of the utmost importance to ask which stories are told and which are often absent.”

Just as history is a collection of stories, so are peoples’ lives. Seventh grade history teachers Mark Stetina and Brandon Rotondo wanted students to explore this idea in their own lives, recognizing how their personal and family stories impact their identity, strengths, and character.

First, students watched a TED Talk on “The Danger of the Single Story” featuring Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “The single story creates stereotypes,” she explains, “and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…. The consequence of the single story is this:” she continues, “it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.” 

Then, students created a personal or family timeline that had to include at least 12 events that significantly influenced their lives and identities. As the students presented their timelines to the class, their peers had to identify the Values in Action character strengths they noticed in the student’s narratives. “The result was a wonderful exercise in recognizing diversity and a range of character traits present in the students’ stories about themselves and others,” said Associate Director of Positive Education, Dr. Nick Holton. Learn more about Shipley’s seventh grade curriculum.


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.