Perspectives on Teaching Environmental Oral History in the Media and Communication Classroom

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Environment, Oral History, Project-based Learning, Interviewing, Student Engagement


Environmental oral history is an emerging discipline to collect and study first-hand accounts of people’s connection to their local environment and how people are responding to rapid environmental shifts such as climate change. This highly interdisciplinary field is an excellent way to engage communication and journalism students through oral history methodology, environmental studies, and project-based learning. As the 2022 Basler Chair of Excellence at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), Jason Davis taught an environmental oral history class to a small group of undergraduate and graduate students as part of the ETSU Department of Media and Communication. While oral history is frequently taught in higher education settings, to date this was the first university class dedicated solely to environmental oral history. In addition to learning about oral history methodology and environmental studies, students in the class conducted an individual environmental oral history project for which they interviewed and video-recorded a local resident speaking about their connections to the local environment. This paper discusses the learning objectives, outcomes, and challenges of this environmental oral history class, and suggests approaches for successfully integrating environmental oral history into the communications and journalism classroom.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication, v. 13, issue 1, p. 41-44