In a new project-based learning course at T. A. Dugger Junior High School, students have launched a system-wide storytelling contest that encourages students in all grade levels to express triumph over personal struggles in writing, and as a design for a barn quilt. Winning submissions will be displayed in the downtown breezeway to showcase student work and beautify the downtown area with personal, local art.
“I think it’s important to offer this project to all grade levels because everyone has a voice,” said project author and 8th Grade Math Teacher Sarah Morris. “It’s important to share and tell our stories with one another because we can help each other grow and heal. We are all humans fighting the same battles and if we listen to each other and speak up, we can help each other learn and live enriching lives, conquering over our trials.”
The project is part of a Bartleby-inspired enrichment course at T. A. Dugger. After attending project-based learning training with the high school Bartleby Program, Morris and two other teachers – Robin McKamey and Rachel Arrowood – redesigned their enrichment and gifted class periods to be project-based and inquiry-driven courses that introduce students to the ten Bartleby Core Values. More than 50 students are currently enrolled.
The idea for the storytelling contest came from Laurie Aaron Hird’s book Farmer’s Wife, a quilt block book that tells stories of perseverance from women in the Depression and the quilt blocks they made to go along with their stories. Morris presented the idea and students took it from there.
They named the project East Tennessee Tuff Tales, since it will highlight both the struggles and triumphs that make Elizabethton kids tough. Students are encouraged to think about how their struggles have had a positive impact in their lives. To promote the project, students presented to the student body and created a website with all the contest information.
Submissions are due by Friday, Nov. 2 and will be judged by TAD teachers. Twelve finalists will be selected and will be asked to read their stories and discuss their barn quilt design at a public event downtown on Saturday, Nov. 17. Eight of these will be displayed downtown.
The barn quilts are the painted wood designs found above barn doors across the Appalachian region. Quilting is an old tradition that has long helped families capture and pass along their own unique heritage. It has now spread from Appalachia throughout the United States to Canada – and now it will be showcased in downtown Elizabethton through students’ evocative original works.