National Theme:

This theme delves into rural communities, seeking ways to honor their traditions and complexities. Teachers and students research and critique particular records of rural life, such as landmarks (e.g., cemeteries, barns, churches and historic homes), documents (e.g., land grant deeds, archival photographs and family bibles), and recurring social practices (e.g., festivals, celebrations, and key events). While preservationist energies drive much of the work around this theme, participants also question why some aspects of their communities' past have received more attention than others, what stories have not yet been told, and what familiar narratives of local life need to be expanded or revised–and how.

One Local Application: Farming Georgia in the Early 20th Century (Click here to sample the Georgia team's application of this theme.)

The Georgia team's initial Cultivating Homelands study tapped into the rich tradition of southern literature about rural life. Reading Caroline Miller's 1934 Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Lamb in His Bosom, Raymond Andrews' The Last Radio Baby, and former president Jimmy Carter's An Hour Before Daylight, the group traced similarities and differences in these vivid narratives about rural experiences. Carrying out their own inquiry into local places' past histories often promoted grass-roots collaborations with citizens' groups, which sometimes led to the renovation of formerly neglected sites. In one instance, a student group's history for a local courthouse building was barely completed when the building burned down from a lightning strike. This group is discovering that by chronicling parts of a rural community's history, they are also creating new communities of critical thinkers and informed preservationists.



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