Fairmont State University Folklife Center Receives Grant for K-12 Education Initiative Exploring Folklore and Cultural Heritage

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center has received a grant of $7,500 from the Daywood Foundation in support of Ruth Ann Musick’s Trunk of Tales, a Fairmont State University project to promote folklore and West Virginia cultural heritage studies in K-12 public schools in the state.

Funds will be used to assemble four teacher resource trunks that include copies of Ruth Ann Musick’s book, The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Stories. Each trunk will also include materials and lesson plans for educators, and digital recorders that students can use to collect stories of folklore and heritage from their own families.

“Among the reasons to give students the opportunity to record and preserve family history is that listening is a gift, a gift to the speaker and a gift to the listener. Often that gift comes in the form of sharing stories filled with nuggets of wisdom, family traditions and cultural values such as perseverance and resiliency. Plus, interviewing family members requires patience, a skill we seldom have the opportunity to practice.” said Dr. Francene Kirk, Interim Director of the Frank and Jane Gabor WV Folklife Center.

Three of the trunks will be donated to school systems in West Virginia’s Barbour, Greenbrier and Kanawha counties as a pilot program. The fourth trunk will remain with the Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University, available on loan to local schools and organizations in Marion County. Teachers will provide feedback during this pilot phase so that the project can be examined and improved before rolling out the project to other counties in West Virginia.

The Folklife Center plans to offer three collaborative professional development workshops for educators participating in the pilot program to help them and their students make the most of their experience with the trunks, while gaining input from educators for future program refinement and expansion.

“Our mission is to educate students, and that mission doesn’t stop at the edge of campus,” said Mirta M. Martin, Fairmont State University President. “This outreach initiative is such a marvelous opportunity for us to engage with and support educators and students in the West Virginia K-12 system. The Ruth Ann Musick’s Trunk of Tales project gets to the heart of two of the things that makes Fairmont State great– our belief in the importance of family, and the strength of our bond to our region. By helping students tell the stories of their families and their communities, students will not only build up their creative thinking skills, but they will also deepen their ties to their families and communities.”

Ruth Ann Musick was a math and English professor at Fairmont State between 1946 and 1967 when it was known as Fairmont State College. She introduced the institution’s first folklore course in 1948. She and her students collected ghost stories from around the state of West Virginia. These stories were grouped and published in three different collections, including The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Stories. Dr. Musick also revived West Virginia’s dormant folklore society in 1950, and she served as the founding editor for West Virginia Folklore Journal from 1951 to 1967.

“When we think about West Virginia's history, our thoughts often go to major historical events and famous people, but Dr. Musick's collection tells the story of the common people, the folk. In her ghost stories we learn about the lives of coal miners, farmers and teachers. We hear about acts of courage and selflessness, but we also bear witness to acts of evil and revenge. We connect with those who went before us and build a sense of identity as West Virginians.” according to Kirk.

Donors interested in providing additional support for the Ruth Ann Musick’s Trunk of Talesproject can contact the Fairmont State Foundation by phone at 304.534.8786 or online at www.fsufoundation.org.

The grant was provided through the Fairmont State Foundation Inc., the non-profit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of Fairmont State University.