Appalachian Teaching Project — Washington, D.C.

On December 2-5, Rachel Naftel (senior, French/political science), Ballard Jones (senior, history), Kalah Palmer (sophomore, communication) and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Appalachian Teaching Project annual symposium.  ATP is a project of the Appalachian Regional Commission, one that brings together and supports fifteen higher education institutions from the region who teach courses that include community collaborators through participatory research, service-learning, and a host of other strategies for creating working relationships with citizens outside the college.

We were honored to receive the invitation to participate in the ATP as a result of the spring course Developing Community in Appalachia (LBAR 3910: Practicum in Liberal Arts), where eleven students learned about the region through reading discussion sessions and a week-long living and learning experience at the Clearfork Community Institute in Eagan, TN.  Representatives from CCI, Michelle Mockbee and Christopher Marlow, both Appalachia Cares Americorps personnel, joined us for the symposium and collaborated with Rachel, Ballard, and Kalah on the presentation.

Each school presented a fifteen-minute overview of their project, and our team did an excellent job summarizing the Clearfork Collaborative Mapping Project, an effort to create maps of the cultural and natural resources of the Woodland Community Lad Trust using GIS technology.  Our class participants assisted with the mapping during our spring break experience, and Ballard Jones and Rachel Naftel assisted CCI during subsequent summer internships following the spring semester.  Community and civic engagement projects rarely achieve their full potential over one semester. Community development is an ongoing activity.  But despite the fact that local leaders don’t structure their work and lives around semester blocks of time, students do have a chance to experience democracy in action and make contributions to collaborations through projects like ours and others we heard about at the symposium.

Recently appointed ARC federal co-chair Earl Gohl participated in the conference the entire time, and his parting words to students regarding their role in the lives of their communities were appropriate and inspiring.  East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Robert Herrin and Ruth Hausman coordinate ATP and the countless details necessary to bring together 150 faculty and students.

D.C. is a truly a magical place, and despite the cold weather, we were able to visit a few memorable Smithsonian musems (Natural History, American Indian, American Portraiture). Rachel, Christopher, and Kalah (her first time to D.C.) visited the heart-wrenching Holocaust Museum.

Learn more about the Appalachian Teaching Project.  Posted by Mark Wilson.


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