New NOAA Online Handbook Helps Teachers and Community Groups Create an Oral History of the Fishing Culture

May 4, 2009

A new handbook published online today by NOAA’s Fisheries Service gives teachers, community groups, and the public a detailed roadmap of how to design and conduct oral history projects that celebrate the people, history and culture of our nation’s coastal and Great Lakes fishing communities.

Old sardine factory.

Students conducted oral history to learn about the people who worked in this old sardine factory in Jonesport, Maine.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

“Capturing the stories and experiences of local men and women who take part in commercial and recreational fishing and other marine-related occupations is especially important for young people growing up in these towns and cities,” said Dr. Susan Abbott-Jamieson, senior social scientist with NOAA’s Fisheries Service and one of three authors of Voices from the Fisheries Handbook: Preserving Local Fisheries Knowledge, Linking Generations, and Improving Environmental Literacy. “Through interviews with community residents, students explore the rich connections between fisheries, the marine environment, their community, and their own lives.”

The idea for the handbook grew out of NOAA’s Fisheries Service Local Fisheries Knowledge Project conducted in Ellsworth and Jonesport high schools in Maine from 2003 to 2006. NOAA worked with the Rural School and Community Trust and local educators to design an oral history curriculum for students who documented the fishing and maritime history of their Downeast communities.

Susan Abbott-Jamieson instructing JBHS students.

Susan Abbott-Jamieson describes interviewing techniques to students at Jonesport/Beals High School in Maine.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

The handbook includes sections on how to start projects, build community partnerships and integrate projects into existing curricula, among other topics.

“Students who previously saw no connection between their lives and the work of scientists, fisheries managers and seafood businesspeople began to imagine different futures for themselves,” said Joyce Whitmore, a retired social sciences teacher from Ellsworth High School and a co-author of the handbook. “A student in Jonesport was so inspired by doing the research that she decided to attend college, which had not been in her plans.”

Voices from the Fisheries Handbook: Preserving Local Fisheries Knowledge, Linking Generations, and Improving Environmental Literacy by Julie Bartch, the New England steward for the Rural School and Community Trust, Abbott-Jamieson, and Whitmore is now available to the public online.

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