Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TC Students Learn About Coal Mining History in West Virginia

Students, faculty and staff from Tusculum College recently spent time learning about the difficult lives coal miners and their families faced during the early days of coal mining and living in mining communities, as well as the economic difficulties many of those towns still face today.

Sixteen students and their staff and faculty mentors visited Whipple, W.Va., as part of a cross-curriculum study on the book, “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls.

The book, set in part in West Virginia, is a memoir of the author’s difficult upbringing dealing with parental alcoholism, neglect and difficult economic circumstances.

According to Amanda Waddell, director of career development at the College and a staff mentor for the Murdock Circle Living Learning Community, the trip was a culmination of the group’s study of the book across several courses, including English, psychology and environmental science courses.

Participating in the educational excursion were students from the Murdock Learning Community and the Quest Learning Community.  The learning community concept at Tusculum College includes students with similar interests or backgrounds living together and taking the same course load in order to create a shared learning environment.  According to Waddell these communities allow for support, in addition to what is already provided by the College, through shared experiences and additional staff and faculty mentors.

The groups read “The Glass House” for their English class, but also addressed the plot’s concepts of extreme poverty and parental neglect in their psychology class and the environmental effects of coal mining in their environmental science course. The trip to West Virginia was a culminating experience for the study unit, said Waddell.

The Whipple area was selected because of its similarity to the setting of the book, a destitute coal mining town in West Virginia.

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