GEORGIA, UNITED STATES – Starting in 1966 in Rabun County, high school students have published a magazine documenting the Appalachian culture through remarkable stories, local lore, life skills and extraordinary talents of the people in their local community. The magazine has now been in continuous production for 50 years with a double issue produced each school year.
On arriving at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School to start teaching in the fall of 1966, Eliot Wigginton struggled to engage his high school students in the English class. After trying several approaches without success, and inspired by the work of John Dewey, Wigginton asked the students what they could do to make the English curriculum interesting. The students chose to produce a magazine. Interviewing elders among family, friends and neighbours, and writing articles based on the information and stories gathered, the students have maintained an archive of the pioneering era of Southern Appalachia. The articles highlight the determination, faith and joy that the disappearing mountain culture should be remembered for.
Titled “Foxfire” the magazine is named after the glowing fungus found on rotting wood in the area.
In the process of getting the magazine to publication, the students choose a topic to research or a person to interview and then meet with their subject and record the interview. Back in the classroom they are responsible for carefully transcribing the interview word-for-word. Using information from the completed transcript, the students author an article based on their interview or compile information from multiple interviews on their selected topics. The articles may cover a person’s life story, local lore or instructions for traditional crafts and skills. Through the project students develop skills in writing, communication, collaboration, time management, decision making and problem solving.
By 1972 the demand for back issues of the magazine had grown so great an anthology of articles was compiled in “The Foxfire Book.” The Foxfire book series with how-to guides on everything from scalding a hog to making wine has now been published as twelve volumes and sold nearly nine million copies.
In 1977 the new Rabun County High School opened and the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School became a private boarding school. At this time the Foxfire program, believing it was best served by linking with students in the local community, elected to move to the high school.
The magazine class remained as an English credit class for many years, however change in staff and the state curriculum guidelines resulted in the program becoming a vocational elective. Student leadership continues to direct the day to day operation of the class with student editors responsible for training new students. The student editors support the students with the process of interviewing, recording and scribing. They also proof read, edit, and select articles for inclusion in each issue of the magazine.
The Foxfire magazine is distributed beyond the immediate community, across the United States and abroad via subscription. Back issues of the magazine and the Foxfire book series are also available on the Foxfire Fund website and Amazon.
Images: Foxfire Fund
- The Foxfire Magazine
- Foxfire Magazine on Wikipedia
- In the mountains of Georgia, Foxfire students keep Appalachian culture alive – 3 Nov 2016, NPR