• 82°

Local high school students

tap into ‘gold’ minds

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

Nov. 29, 1999 11 PM

A score of years ago in the hills of north Georgia, a high school teacher, Eliot Wigginton, gathered his students and took them off the beaten path and back to the way it used to be.

The students took along notepads, tape recorders and cameras and they emerged to leave a legacy of old times, old faces and old ways for the next millennium.

Over the years, Wigginton’s students have interviewed hundreds of old timers and recorded their findings in a series of books called the Foxfire books. The books give detailed instructions on everything from making wagon wheels to corn mash whiskey. Along with the how-tos, the Foxfire books also record the what -fors and how – comes of generations ago.

Wigginton’s Foxfire books have inspired many others to record local lore for historical preservation and present appreciation.

Gail Jordan, English teacher at Charles Henderson High School, realized that there is a wealth of knowledge among the senior citizens of the Pike County community and she wanted to find a way for her students to tap into those "gold" minds.

"Too often we don’t take time to sit down and talk with each other and we miss so much of the wisdom and experiences of our senior citizens," Jordan said. "I wanted to find a different approach to teaching listening and writing skills. I thought there would be no better way than for the students to sit down and talk with our senior citizens and then to put those conversations on paper."

Jordan decided an interview format would be a good "ice breaker" for the students in their first meeting with their "senior."

Mary Ann Casey, director of the Colley Senior Complex, set up interviews with several of the complex participants and Jordan’s ninth grade honors English class came and opened the door to the past.

"Because the students don’t know the people they are interviewing, we prepared 23 questions that would lead them into conversations," Jordan said. "The questions would give direction to interviews and, as they begin to talk, the students might have questions of their own. The interview won’t be limited to those questions. The questions were just for starters."

Jordan said as the interviews progress, they hopefully will become conversations rather than interviews as the two parties become genuinely interested in what the other has to stay.

After the interviews are completed, the students will take their recordings back and transcribe them to be organized into a booklet.

"We hope the booklets will be ready by Christmas," Jordan said. "They would make wonderful Christmas gifts because the stories that are told of the way life was lived 40, 50 years or more ago are part of who we are. We should all be interested in them."

Jordan’s "saving the past history project" was met with great interest and enthusiasm by her 22 students.

"I provided them with the skeleton of the project," she said. "They will add the flesh. From their enthusiasm and that of those they interview, I believe this will be a very worthwhile project for them and certainly one worth preserving for future generations."