Project Abstract

We propose to conduct a research project in the form of a survey administered to students in Grundy County middle schools that will allow us to collect valuable information about the psychological and social problems that middle-school students are facing in rural Southern Appalachia. More specifically, our survey is focused on the relationship between different types of aggressive behavior (relational and physical, proactive and reactive), victimization (physical and relational), self-esteem, social skills, and sense of community in the classroom, and how they differentially impact children based on differences related to body mass index (BMI) and special needs. Findings from this research will enable us to expand our present community-engagement program (Healthy Bodies &Healthy Minds) in order to address such problems. In addition to helping children, we will also provide Sewanee students and faculty with multiple new opportunities to engage in place-based learning, and to learn how to be effective and informed citizens through their work on this project.

Project Alignment with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies

  1. Contributing to a meaningful understanding of and engagement with a place
    The proposed survey research will provide us with valuable information about issues that have a profound effect on child development such as children’s aggressive behavior, bullying, the factors that seem to contribute to aggressive behavior and bullying, and how these behaviors affect certain categories of children living in rural Southern Appalachia. As we discuss earlier, while these are topics that have a profound impact on one’s developmental trajectory, we have an almost complete lack of research whose goal is to examine these issues in rural Southern Appalachia. Information collected in this survey (in the form of group statistics) will be disseminated through multiple means (technical reports, conference presentations, academic journal articles) thereby contributing to our better understanding of the unique characteristics of this region.

  2. Place-based pedagogies that draw their strength from a concrete focus on southern Appalachia
    Data collected by this survey will enable us to create a program that will be place-based and have as its goal to use existing research and theories in this area but adapt them to the unique needs of children in rural Southern Appalachia.

  3. Bringing together the efforts of faculty, staff, students, and community partners toward building a transformative and replicable model of public scholarship and community action
    The proposed study will provide information for our new Let’s Be Friends program in which we have as a community partner the Grundy Schools system. Faculty and students at Sewanee will collaborate with teachers and principals in the Grundy county schools, in developing the program through piloting materials and through use of summative and formative assessment.

  4. Academic-community collaborations that recognize the value of public scholarship and of bringing together varied sources of expertise and skills to address community needs and visions
    We have commenced a collaboration with the Grundy Schools in becoming their after-school partners for this new program. Our goal is to contribute to their ability to obtain and conduct an after-school program by including a component that addresses students’ social and interpersonal skills. Our proposed project will bring together expertise in child development with expertise in clinical psychology and, more specifically, problems related to BMI and body image. Our goal is to disseminate our findings in various forms. Our long-term goal is also to reach out to other university and community members to participate in our after-school program, including faculty teaching courses that comprise the Southern Appalachian Studies curriculum.

  5. Educating effective, engaged, socially responsible citizens
    The proposed research study and ensuing program will be implemented and assessed by Sewanee undergraduate students as part of their course work. Our work over the years with HB&HM has provided Sewanee students with the opportunity to become involved in community-based research and to become effective, engaged, and socially responsible citizens. We propose to continue these practices.
    We are also hoping that our proposed new program “Let’s Be Friends”, whose goal is to teach children to become accepting and appreciative of individual differences and how to interact with other children in a positive proactive fashion, will help make them better citizens.

Project Impact

The impact of our program will be at the local level (at present in five participating Grundy county schools) as we intend to share a final report of our findings with the Grundy school district. Through the publication and presentations of our findings we also expect to reach an audience of educators and researchers at an international level.

We also expect the ensuing after-school program to positively impact middle school students in the Grundy County school system as well as Sewanee undergraduate students who will be participating in the implementation and assessment of the program through the courses. Faculty participating in this program will also be positively impacted. At present, two Sewanee faculty members will be participating in this research but our hope is to attract more collaborators once the second phase of our program is under way (the Let’s Be Friends program).