In creating the books, the middle-schoolers were each paired with one of the Traceway residents.
Ayana was matched with Bobbie Rosato, and the black 13-year-old and the white 89-year-old bonded while discussing their respective childhoods.
"What they went through was different than what we go through now," Ayana said, noting that she was most surprised to learn that Rosato and her classmates were not allowed to talk in the hallway while switching classes.
"We became friends," she added. "She'll ask me something, and I can relate to her."
Smith's students traveled to Traceway at the beginning of November, and each of them spent about two hours interviewing the resident with whom they were matched.
They scanned photos provided by the residents, and then spent the month of November using their district-supplied MacBook computers to compile the books.
They used their computers to take current photographs of their subject and to record their interviews, and then used the machine to edit the older photos they were given. They researched the time period of the adults' lives and wrote letters with follow-up questions.
Finally, last week, the students invited the Traceway residents to a reception at the school, at which they presented a rough draft of their books. They will make any necessary corrections and then send their work to Apple, which will send back hardcover books with dust jackets.
"It brought back old memories," said Juanita Lowry, 83. "This is different than back when we went to school."
Lowry and Alene Dabbs, 88, said they were amazed while watching students change classes between periods, noting that when they were in school it was a much more quiet process than today. They both added that they were impressed by the students who interviewed them.
"They were very intelligent, and they have access to things we didn't have, like computers," Dabbs said.
The project is one of many at the school to be funded by a service learning grant Tupelo Middle School received from the Education Commission of the States.
Smith, whose class focuses on multimedia projects, said she saw her students grow from the experience.
"When we first went, they were nervous," Smith said. "After they met with their people and spent three or four hours with them, they were asking when could they go again. They took ownership of it."
Smith said the students also learned a lot from hearing what the Traceway residents experienced during their life.
"These kids take so much for granted, and it was an eye-opener for them," she said.
Ayana said it was "cool" to learn about their childhood and "how they got to school." Classmate Lee Nguyen said he could not imagine attending school and not being allowed to talk in the hallway.
Tupelo Middle School Assistant Principal Brad Mixon said the school hopes to be able to continue the project in the future.
Meanwhile, the Traceway residents appreciated the books that they would receive.
"I was fascinated by the modern technology for kids to be able to do things like this," said Miriam Sarver, 90. "When we were in school, we couldn't have had something like this to take home."
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or email@example.com.