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Developing Life Skills through Genealogy and Family History

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 02.03.2006:

By Leyla Zuaiter

Genealogy, Family History and Heritage can be integrated into a number of school subjects and activities. Aside from the obvious history class, it can be an interesting and meaningful way to develop language, research and computer skills.

Language Skills (Arabic or Foreign Language):

One often learns a language more effectively when one uses it to perform a pleasant task rather than focusing on the language itself and when the task is a real act of communication. Given the fact that some of the sources are in English or that Diaspora Palestinians may be more likely to know English than Arabic, it is an ideal project for an English class. There is plenty of opportunity to practice the four basic language skills:


Interviewing family or community members to collect oral history or other information

Speaking Developing effective questions/interview techniques to collect oral history.

Reading books, internet, emails

Writing emails, letters, chat, parts of website, transcriptions of oral history

Translating email, letters, written resources or oral interviews into different languages for the website or in response to requests from the Diaspora. Give assignments which matter!


Internet and Library based research

Computer: I was surprised to learn in preparation for my workshop that I could not assume that even young people were computer literate. This topic could be used to practice typing skills, and provide an application in the creation of documents, tables, charts, manipulation of images and internet, using Microsoft and other basic software.

Field trips to heritage centers/sites inside and outside the Bethlehem area:

(Yes, I know it is difficult, but where there is a will, there is a way. Read about the December 2005 visit of AEI’s groups to Mazra’a al Qibliyeh, near Birzeit.)


The use of family history and genealogical themes in art is limited only by the imagination. Old photos of people, families, buildings, landscapes, artifacts and documents can be made into attractive collages —either in one-of-a-kind canvases or installations, or digitally. Calligraphy or decorative fonts in Arabic and/or English can be incorporated as a design element to provide explanatory text.


Classes can photograph places in the community such as tombstones, buildings or other physical features bearing family names: Dabdoub Steps, Morcos Arch, Hosh Giacaman etc.

This is an excerpt of an article which first appeared on the Bethlehem Genealogy and Family History Website of the Arab Educational Institute.

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