Voice of Witness Education Program

The Voice of Witness education program addresses the need for inclusive, engaging, and culturally relevant learning opportunities through oral history. VOW brings unheard stories and oral history to classrooms across the US, centering historically marginalized voices and connecting students and educators with training and tools for storytelling. Our resources and services nurture empathy and develop vital communication, critical thinking, and social-emotional learning skills in classrooms and communities.

What’s the impact of oral history education?

Oral history is a powerful tool for teaching and learning and has many applications in educational settings. We have seen firsthand how oral history narratives and projects resonate with students, inspiring curiosity, empathy, action, and a deeper connection to their communities and the world around them. 

By engaging with VOW lesson plans and projects, students discover their own voices and build stronger relationships with civic and human rights issues. These activities also foster vital student skills, including social-emotional learning, critical thinking, communication, and literacy.

Our Work

Free Resources and Lesson Plans

The education program offers free oral history resources and guides for students to conduct their own storytelling activities and projects. We also bring the crucial stories and human rights issues documented in the VOW book series into the curricula of schools and universities across the US through free, Common-Core aligned lesson plans. These lessons are highly adaptable and can be applied to a wide variety of courses. Check out our: 

  • Common-Core aligned lesson plans
  • Oral history/storytelling project toolkits
  • Resources for English language learners
  • Strategies and tools for narrative art projects such as podcasts, photo essays, books, plays, videos, cookbooks, and more

Services and Support

Voice of Witness has extensive experience working with educators and schools to create curricula and activities that increase student engagement and learning. We also provide oral history storytelling support and trainings to a wide range of organizations. We offer:

  • Curriculum design and hands-on educator support that promote social-emotional learning and other skills
  • Tailored project consulting and program development for community engagement
  • Ethical storytelling and oral history trainings
  • Professional development workshops across many industries

Sharing History Initiative

The Sharing History Initiative brings oral history and human rights education to classrooms and communities by providing teachers, nonprofits, and advocates with free Voice of Witness books and culturally relevant curricula. This national book placement program has sent thousands of books to hundreds of schools and organizations around the country and offers a dynamic approach for teaching and learning about our most pressing human rights issues. 

In the US, the freedom to learn and to teach truth is facing enormous threats from educational gag orders and book bans. In light of efforts to deliberately silence stories from marginalized communities, oral history is an important method of ensuring these voices are in the classroom.

Our Work in Action

Check out a selection of case studies from VOW’s education work. More examples of projects and collaborations are available here.

Supporting NYC School District

We facilitated PD workshops and created lesson plans centering AAPI and Latinx oral histories for the department of education’s Hidden Voices Project.

Oral History Cookbook Project

Read a Q&A with teachers who facilitated project-based learning with their ELL students to support literacy, communication, and culturally relevant content.

Ethnic Studies Student Podcasts

VOW supported a high school Ethnic Studies class to develop podcasts on a diverse range of themes during distance learning.

Stories on Aging and Dementia

Our collaboration with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center includes trainings in active listening and empathy, and storytelling projects to build connections and reduce stigma.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to collaborate with Voice of Witness. They are such helpful thought partners and curriculum writers. The educators at VOW are skilled and helpful for both teachers and students.

Matt Colley
Teacher, John O’Connell High School

New Report: Evaluating an Oral History-based Course

We wanted to study the long-term effects on student learning of a long-running oral history-based course at Stagg High School. A survey and in-depth interviews were conducted with former students in an effort to measure the impact of the class. The resulting report, Benefits of an Oral History-Based Course: A Case Study on Building Empathy, Community, and Student Skills shares the findings of this evaluation.

More Testimonials

Through this project I have learned the value of oral history and how it has the power to show us more about different stories and perspectives. [It] allows us to connect with different narratives because we look deeper into people’s lives. We see the complexity of every individual and their stories.

12th Grade Student

VOW is one of the best organizations I have worked with as an educator. Each time I recommend their materials to a colleague, they also discover the value and importance of the work VOW does not only in the field of education, but really for our communities and the world.

Von Torres
Teacher, Clovis Community College

In the short term, our school shined! I think it was the first time our community really looked at our diverse experiences with a more true and deep sense of pride. VOW participants were so proud of what they created and it was the most genuine pride and accomplishment I had seen come from a classroom or activity. In the long term, the course had lasting, positive effects.

Eric Olsen
Principal at Stagg High School

My language learning students not only developed listening and speaking skills, but also made strong intergenerational bonds with community members through empathy and storytelling.

Esther Honda
Teacher, Willie Brown Middle School

Contact Us

Have questions? Interested in exploring ways we can collaborate? Get in touch with our education team!

Recipient of the Human Rights Education Award

Each year, the award recognizes one organization and one individual who have made outstanding contributions to human rights education in the United States. Voice of Witness was honored to receive the 2017 award for our curricular resources and projects in support of human rights education.

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