Gateway Gazette

Oilfield High School Students “Borrowed” Human Books

By Pam Jones, Editor.

Very few people had heard about a “Human Library” until a short while ago. Nadine Russell, the Library Tech at Oilfields High School, saw a Facebook page that explained how the New York Public Library had hosted a Human Library.

Intrigued by the idea, Nadine put her many connections and imaginative brain to work. She set to work finding people whom she thought had an interesting story to tell about their life and she asked them to come to her school library and tell that story. Twenty-eight people agreed to become “human books”.

Last week these twenty-eight people came to OHS for a delicious lunch prepared by the Grades 7, 8 and 9 Culinary Art students and enjoyed an hour of “meet and greet” with the assistance of the School’s Student Council.

This was followed by quite the organizational feat of the Grade 7, 8 and 9 students being divided up into 28 groups. Each ‘Human Book’ was allocated a location in either the Learning Commons, Band Foyer, Drama Room or one of three classrooms. The groups of students then sat around each ‘book’ and listened to their stories for about twenty minutes then students asked questions and completed a workbook. At the sound of the ‘gong’ (cymbals, bells or whistles) each group moved on to their next allocated ‘book’ for the next story. Each group was able to “borrow” four (human) library books in total.

The impressive line-up of ‘Human Books’ included the following:

Bob Chomany – FNMI Author of Inspirational Poetry

Chris Cedarstrand – Paralympian – Sledge Hockey Team

Chris Koch – If I can Foundation

Christal Christman – Barrel Racer and Equine Vet

Daisy Haynes – speaking on Domestic Violence

Dave Bissett – Olympian – Bobsled

Dave Redl – Schizophrenia Society

Dennis Halstead – World Ranked Professional Rodeo Clown

Douglas Craig – Biker Santa from CBC morning show

Erin Nelson – Electric Burn Survivor

Fawna Bews – Health/Wellness Facilitator and cancer survivor

Gaylon Lunn – Lieutenant Firefighter

James Benedetti – Transgender Male in transition

Jason Barber – First Nations Metis Inuit (FNMI) RCMP Officer

Kendra Edey – National Barrel Racing Champion

Krystyna Laycroft – Polish Immigrant

Malcolm Russell – Professional Magician

Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haque – First Pakistani Muslim to Black Diamond and ex-library Manager of Sheep River Public Library

Quinn Page – Paraplegic speaking on sexual abuse

Ray Watrin – Ex CFL player, Two times Grey Cup Winner and Okotoks Town Councillor

Rick Quarrell – Wild Horse Racer

Sherraine Schalm – 4 time Olympian – Women’s Fencing

Tara Beaver – FNMI Mentor

Teen Challenge – 4 speakers about drug addiction

Tiffany McGregor – Female RCMP Officer

Verna Staples – Mom of a transgender teen

Many memories were made that afternoon and a lot of young adults learned more from a ten minute story than they would have from a lifetime of reading. The personalization of these autobiographies and the conversation that they invoked was amazing. Several of the students asked very astute questions and they told me afterwards that they would love to have another “Human Library” event.

From the perspective of the speakers each one I spoke to shared with me that they thoroughly enjoyed being able to influence, in however small of a way, the kids they talked with and they said they would certainly return if another Human Library day was scheduled.

For myself, wandering around listening to snippets of these conversations made me wish that I, too, could have sat and listened to all that was being said.

Congratulations to everyone at Oilfields High School that was a part of this event and especially to Nadine Russell for having the idea and the perseverance and fortitude to implement it. I hope other schools in our Division adopt this amazing educational tool.

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