Have you ever heard of the Foxfire books? I got to see some this weekend, as we were looking for home remedies for a sunburn (my pale skin is no match for 5 hours of sunshine, despite multiple coats of sunscreen). The Foxfire books are a collection of stories compiled in 1966 by an English class in a Southern Appalacian community. Students interviewed elders of the community and recorded their stories, crafts, and words of advice into a journal.
The students’ portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith shattered most of the world-at-large’s misconceptions about these ‘hillbillies’.
The project has continued for 45 years, and has expanded from a journal to a museum and even a method of teaching that gives students the opportunity to determine how they learn the material. (They will learn, but they get to choose how.) This was the beginning of the project – an English teacher was challenged with making learning interesting to his students. The students chose to produce a magazine, which taught them interviewing, writing, and communication skills. Ultimately, they ended up preserving this unique bit of American culture whose knowledge will be preserved for generations. One student writes
For two years I was a part of the magazine class; as a result, I have experienced all the emotions that go along with it – the tears of angst that come with lost or crashed disks, the frustrations of a computer that just won’t cooperate, the nerves before the first interview, the thrill of a good interview, and the incredible pride after seeing your name in print for the first time.
The Foxfire books contain information about anything from identifying wildflowers to salting pork to traditional ghost stories. If you get your hands on one of these books, just know that you’re holding something special.