Frostburg State University students are partnering with the Savage River Watershed Association to engage in a listening project to document local hopes and concerns regarding proposed unconventional natural gas extraction in western Maryland. While there has been much debate about drilling here, there has been little effort to assess and document public opinion. Modeling their work after similar successful projects in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania, students and members of the Savage River Watershed Association believe that an awareness of public opinion on the issue will be beneficial to State and local government officials and county planners as the region continues to debate the role of gas development in the State.
Two FSU classes will work on this project throughout the academic year in Fall 2014 "Folklore in Appalachia" and Spring 2015 "Sociology of the Environment." Both courses are taught by Associate Professor Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas of FSU's Sociology Department. Students will be trained to listen, record, and respect a full range of opinions and attitudes while avoiding imposing an agenda or opinion-based approach to the topic.
Students are currently scheduling community listening days in Frostburg, Mt. Savage, Finzel, Lonaconing, Westernport and Grantsville and are encouraging area residents to stop by a share their opinions. Working in teams, students will also be doing a limited amount of door to door interviews in some areas. A full listing of community listening events and selected neighborhoods will be available on the Project’s Blog http://fsumslp.blogspot.com/ and updated regularly. Research results will also be shared on the Blog with a full report of the findings made available in May 2015. Plans are also underway to host a public event sharing the findings in late Spring.
The project is one of a number of experiential learning projects in the Appalachian region supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Teaching Project administered through East Tennessee State University. In December, FSU students will join participants from more than fifteen regional institutions to share their work with ARC representatives. In March, students will travel to Johnson City, Tennessee, to present a summary of their findings at the annual meeting of the Appalachian Studies Association.
If your organization is interested in hosting a listening event or if you are interested in learning more about ...