AP United States History Brings Back the Use of Carrier Pigeons

AP United States History, taught by Callie Gropp, will participate in an unusual activity to culminate their year-long study. Gropp discusses the experience in this post.

Inspired by the stories of carrier pigeons, used during the First and Second World Wars to deliver important messages between the Allies, students found a way to tie their hopes and dreams for Pittsburgh with a presentation by one of our City as Our Campussm¬†partners, Ken Haselrig. Ken has a presentation titled “Pigeon Heroes,” that tells the stories of carrier pigeons during wartime. Following the presentation, Ken releases the doves and they return to his home in Hampton. On¬†Wednesday, May 30, students in Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH) class will have the opportunity to hear Ken’s presentation, participate in the release, and work toward the fulfillment of a hope and wish they hold for the world that we all share. It is a wish for true belonging and for beloved community, a wish students’ hope takes flight throughout our city and beyond.

Following the release of the doves, APUSH students will release over a dozen biodegradable balloons, each carrying the story of one person’s life. The messages attached to the balloons will provide people with a QR code to a website, created by the students, where visitors can add their own stories. In this way, we hope to create space for public engagement and shared storytelling.

Students made purposeful choices throughout each step of the planning process. In their words, “The stories represent the importance and ability of every citizen within our community to make contributions and share their voice. The messages themselves, we hope, will serve as a reminder that we all belong, that we deserve to love, and to be loved by one another.” Additionally, students elected to use multi-colored balloons as a visual way “to reflect the diversity within our city and the beauty in retaining that individualism while still working together in society towards a common goal of inclusion and equity.”

The release of doves and stories is part of a year-long effort to deepen our collective understanding of the ways in which stories matter. In the words of one APUSH student, “Othering is the act of marginalizing and separating groups different than our own, creating a divisive, ‘us vs. them’ society. Throughout our American history, this division has been imminent; othering has long been used to target groups based on race, class, gender, and more. But, through the exposure of multiple narratives and stories, we can learn to connect with and empower marginalized groups, therefore creating a more just, integrated, and equitable society. Ultimately, we need to hold onto and understand what our own stories mean to ourselves, and contribute them to society while also learning from others’, creating a place where the power of multiple stories mitigates the power of othering.”