School Visit: Timelines, Genealogy, History, and Autographs

Last week I enjoyed speaking to two classes of seventh and eighth graders at Kenedy Middle School in Kenedy, Texas. About 150 students attended the presentations in the school library.

As a youngster, I used to amaze my teachers with my ability to remember dates of historical events. (I only wish I’d been able to remember math and English rules half as well!) Historical dates were easy for me because I had been hearing the stories of my ancestors from early childhood. I could always associate historical events with the events in my family’s story. Genealogy and history were intertwined, and I visualized a timeline that blended my family’s place in history with actual events.

I talked about how most of us can remember exactly where we were and what we doing when important events happened in the world around us. One of my strongest memories is the assassination of John Kennedy. Although I was only in my late teens at the time, I still remember hearing the news.

To help the students place historical events in their own lives, I had them create a timeline from their birth to today. Later they could expand it back through their parents’ and grandparents’ lives. I drew a timeline on the board and asked the youngsters to name the significant events they remember occurring their lifetimes.

It saddened me to see that the two events mentioned first by both classes were the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Columbine shooting. With some coaxing, they could recall happy events – such as the San Antonio Spurs and the Texas Longhorns winning national sports championships. But the terrible tragedies came to their minds immediately, and the positive events had to be coaxed.


I gave an “autographed” picture of my dog Lulubelle to each student.

After my presentation, I was speaking with a teacher and noticed a young girl standing off to the side. The teacher told me the girl was very shy but wanted to talk to me. When I spoke to her, she held out Lulubelle’s picture and asked me for my autograph. As soon as I signed the card, about twenty other students appeared holding out their cards for my autograph.

I’ve had lots of compliments and many great reviews on my book, but those middle school students lining up for my autograph was one of the best moments I’ve had as an author and speaker.

[tags]school visit, David Bowles, genealogy, history, timeline[/tags]

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