What does Appalachia mean to me? Investigating elementary and middle grades students’ perceptions of Appalachian culture during Camp Appalachia

Camp Appalachia is a week long summer camp that exposes students to the rich and vibrant culture of Appalachia by engaging in hands-on activities focused on science and engineering practices, historical significance of arts, crafts, and music, and storytelling to preserve history. This research study explored Camp Appalachia elementary and middle grades students' (n = 13) perceptions of Appalachian culture. Two methods of data sources documented students’ perceptions before and after the events of Camp Appalachia: 1) Appalachian Perception and Interest Survey (collected student demographic, perception, and interest information) and 2) Draw Appalachia (students were instructed to draw what they knew about the people who lived in Appalachia – this was based on the Draw-the-Scientist protocol developed by Chambers (1983)). Student responses of the Appalachian Perception and Interest Survey (Likert scale 1-5) were compared pre and post using the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test (two-tailed, alpha = .05). While there was an increase in overall ranks of each item on the survey, there was a significant change in student response of the item, I enjoy learning about Appalachian culture. Draw Appalachia student drawings (pre and post) were reviewed, coded, and compared (e.g., gender, race, outdoor features, farming and hunting actions, and living areas). Four student Draw Appalachia case studies will be featured detailing assumed stereotypes, perceptions of Appalachia, self-identification with Appalachia, and depictions of gender and family. This information could inform best practices in the development and implementation of informal educational programs designed to create awareness of Appalachian culture for students.