Roots with Wings, a Floyd County Place-Based Education Project:: Intergenerational Connections

Floyd Story Center

Since 1998, a community oral history collection partnership of the Old Church Gallery, Ltd., Radford University’s Center for Social and Cultural Research, Honors Program, Scholar-Citizen Initiative, Appalachian Regional and Rural Studies Center, and Floyd County High School. Our archives now hold over 100 interviews.

In our Roots with Wings project, college mentors, high school staff, and community volunteers meet weekly during the school year to teach the discipline of oral history collection.

Students learn ethical, methodologically sound interview techniques, practice and complete several interviews, transcribe the audiotapes, create searchable content logs, archive interviewee resources and period photographs, learn the technology of audio and video recording, research historical backgrounds, acquire proficiency in iMovie and storytelling, and finally extract a theme from an hour long interview to create a seven minute movie production.

Summary Description: Floyd, VA Place-Based Education Project

Intergenerational Connections
in Floyd County, Virginia

Floyd Story Center-Radford University-Floyd County High School Place-Based Education Project.

The partners in this project have forged a symbiotic relationship. The partners are:
• Floyd County Old Church Gallery’s Floyd Story Center
• Floyd County High School
• Radford University’s Sociology Department
• Radford University’s Center for Social and Cultural Research
• Numerous funding agencies

The project focus is oral history interviewing that connects high school age students with elderly residents of their home place, using college age students as mentors. Since 2007, focus has been on World War II veterans.

Forge Connections, Build Skills and Confidence, Conserve Local History and Culture, and Foster Pride

• Forge Connections
The overall purpose of the Project is CONNECTIONS.
We serve a variety of pedagogic categories, including students at-risk of not graduating from high school. Some of the children (for teenagers are still fragile children), through situations not of their own making, are less than enthusiastic about school, community, themselves, and sometimes even life in general. The Project has connected high school students:
o to each other,
o to their cultural heritage,
o to their ongoing community, and
o to university student mentors.

• Build Skills and Confidence
Another purpose is to build pride, self-confidence, and skills. College mentors, high school staff, and community volunteers meet weekly during the school year to teach students how to:
o conduct ethical, methodologically sound interviews,
o record using state-of-the-art audio and video equipment
o transcribe
o create searchable content logs
o research historical background
o archive
o discover stories and themes in interviews
o extract a theme from an hour long interview, to
o create a seven minute movie production.

• Conserve Local History and Culture, and Foster Pride
The Floyd County Old Church Gallery has a long history of caring for culture -- with the motto, “We remember, we collect, we protect.”
• Intergenerational connections: Intergenerational connections in Appalachia are a longstanding tradition. These student interviews with World War II veterans and their spouses continue that tradition.
• Tangible Products: The interview audio and video tapes, transcriptions, searchable tables of contents, and finished video products are archived at the Old Church Gallery.

OUTCOMES: What have the participants said?
Youth at-risk-of-not-graduating from high school, Elderly residents, High School Sociology class, At-risk student, suspended from school, taking part in Credit Recovery

• Youth at-risk-of-not-graduating from high school
Joe Klein, former youth clinician with New River Valley Community Services, initiated this Project.
After its first semester, Mr. Klein asked the group a series of questions. Here are some responses.
• All mentioned the good connection they had with Ashley Herwald, their first Radford University mentor
• One student said, “Now, when I see someone as I walk down the street in town, I think, ‘I wonder what his story is.’”
• Another student, who happened to interview a neighbor during impromptu interviews at the Veterans’ Day Parade, said, “I never knew that about him – I never knew he had those experiences.”
• Another said that the interviews had helped him feel connected to a (veteran) grandfather he had never known.
• And, during this session, the students freely took over Mr. Klein’s page of questions and confidently interviewed each other.

o Elderly residents of Floyd County (Veterans of WWII and spouses)
The veterans interviewed have been touched -- and in some cases surprised -- at the high school students’ interest in their life experiences.
o I never imagined that anyone -- high school students, especially -- would be that interested in local people who had been in World War II. Something generated your interest. I thank you very much for the program you put together. . . . I’m glad to see it come off like this, and the students doing this thing. . . . [People should know] ‘War is hell.’
o I appreciate people doing this. There are so many stories about World War II, that people don’t realize -- never heard tell of -- the pain and suffering and misery that the veterans went through. The way I look at it, the government doesn’t have enough money to pay the veterans for what they encountered in World War II. And I really am glad that there are people bringing this out, so the rest of the world can understand what it’s all about.

• High School Sociology class
Radford University mentors interviewed high school students about their experiences in the Project.
o Senior: I learned that people of all ages can really work together to create a really cool project.
o Senior (one of the at-risk students): It kind of opens your eyes to the world, and how it got the way it is now – you realize a lot more things that you didn’t realize – it’s really helpful. . . . There’s a lot of people that have stories, so you really want to get their stories and keep them – to where younger people can go back and hear them or watch the interview. . . . It was really an overall good experience to have the mentors here. They gave us good leadership.”
o Sophomore: I interviewed Sunny Bernardine. The part that I thought was the coolest was that you hear about these stories or see it in the movies, but to actually hear it, right there, first-person, her talking to you about her life, it’s such a big part of history . . . it’s like, wow, it’s real, it actually happened. . . . I thought it was so cool because Sunny Bernardine said to me, ‘I never thought anyone would ever want to hear this story.’

• At-risk student, suspended from school, taking part in Credit Recovery with goal of readmission:
Two Radford University mentors interviewed (one filming, one interviewing) the high school student, and asked him, “What was your favorite part [of the Project]?”
o . . . Transcribing. With transcribing, you’re learning more as you’re writing it. You’re getting to feel like you’re the writer and you were actually there.
o The videocamera was accidentally left on as the mentors and the high school student stowed equipment. It caught the high school student chatting with the mentors: Knowing they were seniors, he asked, When were they graduating? What were their degrees? How long had they been in school?