One way modern-day students can learn about moments in history is by reading the personal journals of those who lived through it.
Layland Museum Manager Stephanie Montero is encouraging everyone to write down what they are experiencing as the world pauses to cope with and stop the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.
“People are living through history right now,” she said. “I think people who are experiencing this can journal about it while it is still fresh in their minds.”
Montero said journaling can be done in the form of writing with paper and pencil, typing out a blog or creating a film, a series of artworks, a short story or poem — of your life in these unprecedented times.
“You can write about what it is like to go to the grocery store right now, or how many times you’ve washed your hands,” she said. “I think it could be very exciting to have this picture of what it’s like to be in this real experience.”
Montero has been in touch with Cleburne ISD to make this project available to all of its teachers.
Cleburne ISD Community Relations Director Lisa Magers said they have shared this information with their English/language arts and social studies curriculum coordinators and have also posted it on district social media.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be able to document and express what they are feeling and experiencing in this challenging time, while also practicing their writing skills,” Magers said. “To be given the chance to personally document a time in history doesn’t come along every day. We hope our students and families choose to participate.”
Montero said each individual perspective is valuable.
“I would love to have adults do them, too, because I’d love to have all the different perspectives,” she said. “I’m thinking a lot of people are probably doing something like this as an activity at home already, but if not — they should be. I think it kind of helps people process what is going on, too.”
Researchers have found that people who practice expressive writing — that is, writing to help make sense of their thoughts and emotions — can experience mental and emotional benefits, including a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression and greater clarity and focus.
Through his own research, James Pennebaker, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said journaling not only improves our sense of mental well-being but also triggers actual physical benefits, such as improved immune function and faster healing.
Pennebaker offers the following tips for therapeutic journaling:
• Find a time and a place where you won’t be disturbed.
• Commit to writing for at least 15 minutes every day.
• Once you begin, write without stopping to correct spelling or grammar. If you run out of things to write before your time is up, you can repeat what you’ve already written.
• What you write and how you write it is completely up to you. There are no rules.
Montero is requesting that journals be donated to the museum for a special collection once the virus has run its course.
“This is really an important part of history,” she said. “Having these at the museum will allow people to be able to look back and see what it was like to live through this.”