JACKSON, WY— As a history teacher at Jackson Hole High School, Jim Rooks understands that the big moments make it into history books. But the more intimate moments, the ones that really define a point in time—those too often get lost in translation.
“It’s easy to lose those stories,” Rooks said.
That’s why his 10th grade World History Class is documenting Legacy Lodge residents’ stories as an end of the year project. The class spent their Thursday afternoon on May 10 filming interviews with Legacy Lodge residents and asking for their stories. The final product will be a 45-60-minute documentary that will be given to the residents, their family members, Legacy Lodge staff, and the Jackson Hole Historical Society.
The film features stories like that of “Moosie” Woodling, a 95-year old Legacy Lodge resident who moved to Wyoming in the ’50s to work or Yellowstone National Park. She remembers the very day she arrived—May 5.
“I wrote 58 letters [to different national parks],” Woodling said during her interview. “Yellowstone was the only one who gave me a job.”
Woodling says she has visited Yellowstone every single year since then, twice a year. She was friends with renowned conservationist Margaret “Mardy” Murie. She never married, and she thinks that’s one of the reasons she has lived so long.
Rooks collaborated with Legacy Lodge’s Director of Life Enrichment Alenlia Woerner on the project. Woerner has long wanted to document these stories, but lacked the resources to do so. She reached out to Rooks with the expectation of getting the ball rolling for the upcoming fall.
He and his students were ready to roll in just two weeks.
“It’s going much better than I had planned,” Woerner said.
The benefits are twofold: residents get one-on-one attention and “a chance to feel like a movie star.” High school students get to learn a new skill (none of them were film-makers but they’re all about to be) and be a part of preserving history.
“These are stories we shouldn’t be losing,” Woerner said.
One of Rooks’ core tenants of teaching history is that it’s more than just a class. It’s a “habit of mind,” he said. In other words, students aren’t’ just learning history—they’re creating it. Documenting it. Preserving it for years to come. And history is more than just the big textbook events. It’s ingrained into the lives and stories of the people that lived through those events. Those stories, he said, are the most important to preserve.
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