Episode 19: Blending Place-Based Education and C3WP in Rural Nebraska: A Focus on Civil Discourse

December 14, 2020

In this episode, Pierce High School English teacher Melissa Legate and professor Robert Brooke illustrate how place-conscious education can blend with an emphasis on civic engagement and understanding issues from multiple perspectives.

Plainstate: The Podcast, sponsored by the Department of English, is a podcast about the humanities on the Great Plains and beyond featuring interviews, stories, people, and places.




Thank you for listening to the Plainstate Podcast, a production of the Department of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. This special episode was produced by the Nebraska Writing Project for the National Writing Project-National Parks Service partnership.


Welcome to blending place-based education and C3WP in rural Nebraska a focus on civil discourse this podcast is produced by the Nebraska Writing Project as part of the series on place-based education for the National Writing Project national park service partnership I’m Dr. Robert Brooke - I’m director of the Nebraska Writing Project and I’m very interested in talking today.


Hi. I’m Melissa Legate. I am a secondary English teacher in Pierce, Nebraska, and I’m also a co-director of the Nebraska Writing Project.

BROOKE: We are here today to talk about a project that Melissa did up in her school in Pierce, Nebraska that actually became her master's thesis. What we wanted to do in the talk today is talk about what that project is, and how it connects with place-based education and the development of the C3WP program and argument writing. Then, we have a couple sound bites to share from our students, and we'll talk about some of the wider implications of that work.

I’m not sure everybody who's listening to us across the nation might know where Pierce, Nebraska is and what Pierce, Nebraska is like. So, Melissa, do you want to talk a little bit about– give us some sense of what your community is?

LEGATE: Absolutely. Pierce is a small rural community. We're in northeast Nebraska. Our population is about 1700. Historically, it was a German settlement. Up in the area of the state where we are, a lot of communities are smaller like ours, but we do neighbor one of the larger communities that's in that part of the state, which is Norfolk, Nebraska. There's about 25,000 people there. So that city actually employs a number of people in Pierce, so a lot of our citizens are commuters that go work in Norfolk—but there's also a lot of locally owned businesses in town that employ a great number of people. Overall, I would say our community is mostly agricultural. A lot of people farm, or have livestock, or they're involved in some other sector of agriculture.

Our school is a 7 through 12 building, and we are the only public school in our district. In grades 7 through 12, we have about 300 students, so that comes out to about 50 or 60 students per grade, and in Nebraska that would make us a Class C1 school, if that means anything to people out there.

Our community, as I said, is a largely German settlement, so it’s very homogeneous in terms of ethnicity and culture and religion; but it's just a really nice, wholesome community. I moved here after college graduation to start my teaching career and I have loved living here.

BROOKE: Cool. Now, in your school building, how many English teachers are there?

LEGATE: I am one of four from grades 7 through 12.

BROOKE: Okay! One of four. And I think you also do speech and drama—do you have other commitments as well?

LEGATE: Oh yes. For the first seven years—this is my eighth year teaching—for the first seven years I was the yearbook and journalism advisor, so we did the newspaper and the annual. And then for the last seven years I have been the speech coach as well.

BROOKE: Very cool. Well, one of the things we wanted to talk about today is how your project—which focused on civic discourse for your students—taps into place-based education and taps into the National Writing Project’s Community, College, and Career Writing Program (C3WP) that you were involved in. We think that you are showcasing a blend between those programs that might appeal to listeners across the state. I wanted to ask what you saw as the appeal for your students of what you're doing with the connections that you found from C3WP.

LEGATE: Sure. I took the C3WP training when I was working on my master's thesis as one of the Nebraska Writing Project’s summer courses for teachers. At that time, I was just so excited as I thought about how I would implement it in our classroom, because one of the key principles of C3WP is considering multiple perspectives and making sure that one has all of the facts and different viewpoints before arriving at a claim. I feel like—for students in general, but maybe particularly students in my school—that we often, or they often, kind of do it backwards; where they come up with the argument or the perspective that they want to argue for on a topic that they've been assigned, and then they only look for sources that support them and kind of ignore everything else. In the community like Pierce where students really are mainly exposed to viewpoints that are like theirs, they were never forced to confront or interact with perspectives that might be different. I thought it was so wonderful to have a program that really engages students with all these different perspectives before they form their viewpoints and before they form their claims.

BROOKE: Remind me—the C3WP program, as we use it here in Nebraska, often works by the development of what we think of as a “text set,” or an interactive set of texts. Can you talk a little bit about how you were thinking about that process?

LEGATE: Absolutely, yeah. With C3WP, students will engage with multiple texts around a certain issue, and those texts are not just polar opposites of a spectrum regarding this issue; like with most complicated things, there's a lot of facets to some of these argumentative concepts. The principles behind the C3WP text set are that they look at lots of different, nuanced perspectives surrounding an issue, rather than like two sides of you know an argument And so, when crafting a text set for these students, that was one thing that was really emphasized by C3WP: making sure that this isn't just a pro/con argument. It’s more than just two sides. There's a lot of different aspects to consider because most things are more complex than that.

BROOKE: Okay, cool. This is so interesting because I think what we found here in Nebraska is that the text set idea really plugs into what we think about as place-based education. When we do place-based, place-conscious education, we are moving students into the community, engaging directly with community projects that are going on around them, and immediately what they find themselves in contact with is a variety of perspectives from the community members themselves often about the issue that they are facing

And going on with that, we think that place-based education and C3WP blend relatively naturally to try to create an idea of what we call a place-based education, and informed and active citizenry. I have on my desk I have an old copy of Rural Voices: Place-Based Education in the Teaching of Writing,[i] which we produced here in Nebraska back in around 2000, and there's a little paragraph about the kind of citizen that we're hoping to develop through place-based education. I think is really germane right here, because it speaks to how the multiple perspectives of C3WP text sets might apply to real-world community engagement that we've got. So here's a quote. It's about it's a paragraph long; be forewarned about that. Here goes:

Place-based education is aimed at a specific kind of citizenry. Place-conscious citizens should be people who can live well in intradependence—that is, people who know enough about their natural and cultural region to fashion lives that enhance the communities located there. Place-conscious citizens are locally active, engaged in community decision making for their region through their work, schools, local government, and civic organizations. Place-conscious education thus provides an alternative to the focus of mainstream education on the creation of migratory, displaced citizens, equipped with marketable abstract skills and knowledge but lacking any sense of living well in local community. (Rural Voices, p. 13)

So I think that one of the things we were after—that's the end of the quote, by the way—but I think one of the things we were after here was tackling how a focus on civic discourse when approaching a text set that's developed with multiple perspectives is also a training ground for the kind of active citizenry that we wanted to discuss. I think that was partly where you started with the first text set that you created for your students.

LEGATE: Yeah. The whole idea of my project was to prepare students for that civic participation, using the principles of C3WP to prepare them for that civil discourse. I wanted to start out, for them, with an argument that would be highly relevant to their actual civic participation, and so I chose the issue of rural decline to build that first text set around. We had just finished with a unit of Nebraska poetry, so I felt like it was a nice way to tie in some argument skills after they had spent several weeks celebrating where we are from using that poetry.

We ended up reading a text set that had a lot of perspectives on the decline and the shifting demographics of some of our rural communities, specifically in Nebraska. Most of the texts that we read came from Nebraska newspapers like the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star. So, some of the different perspectives– one of them focused on reasons why a lot of this is happening; why people, after they graduate from high school, are not returning to their communities. You know, obviously citing things like the lack of a broad range of career opportunities, a little bit of a lower salary, things like that. Also, some texts focus on what should be done to combat this, discussing what other states have done to incentivize young people to return to their small communities after they go to college and receive their education. Some were more editorial; they talked from the perspective of people who did end up returning to their small communities and talked about why they did that. So they got all these different varieties of perspectives.

Then, after engaging with their arguments, or with these arguments, students were challenged to write their own claims about rural decline. Some of them focused on what should be done to combat it; some focused on why they maybe don't want to return, and why that's an okay perspective. So a lot of different things came out of it, but it was so interesting because– I mean, obviously this is an issue that directly affects them and one that they're going to have to think seriously about in the next five to ten years of their lives.

So what I actually have here next is some excerpts of my conversation with a few of my former students. They were in my class during the time that I was working on my thesis, so right now they're juniors, but they were 9th graders at the time. Their names are Abigail, Tanner and Sean and their work is excerpted in my thesis actually. But they just talk about here the experience of writing about an issue that so directly affects them, and also the experience of learning these writing or these argument skills in general and how they've been useful to them both inside and outside of school.


LEGATE: You wrote an argument using those different perspectives on rural decline and some of you focused your claims on whether these small towns were worth saving in some ways. Some of you focused your claims around what we should do to try to save small towns, because a couple of the articles offered different types of solutions. So, you ended up having to take a perspective and then use evidence to write about it. That probably wasn't the first time that you've done that in school, and it certainly wasn't the last, but it might have been one of the only times that you wrote about an issue that does so directly affect you.

So, I guess, could you describe the experience of writing about something that relates to your life so much—even in ways that contrast with other types of writing that you do, like when you write about a novel that you're reading, or a big issue in government that maybe doesn't feel like it's in your backyard the same way that this one does?

TANNER: Yeah. I feel like in those ones, it's a lot of Here, write this and try and do your best to get the grade, but while writing these ones that are a lot closer to home, it provokes a lot more thought—a lot more feeling—into your writing. I feel like that really shows when it actually comes out in the final piece compared to a little bland thing about some problem that really doesn't affect us. Something like this really pushes your train of thought into What would you actually do? and What do you want other people to do?

SEAN: Yeah. It kind of relates to what Tanner said, but I feel like the student mentality in general is usually to get the project done at the best of your ability and not really put the extra time in to make it amazing. But with a topic like this that affects you in your everyday life, you are willing to go forth and put in extra research that you didn't have to because you were just intrigued to learn more and more about the issue and how we can fix it ourselves in our daily lives. I think everyone in general is willing to put a lot more work into this rural decline essay because it affects you so much in your everyday life, instead of just being a paper.

ABIGAIL: I think I was definitely more conflicted about writing this essay than I have been in past ones, just because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted—what I believed, or what I thought. Compared to writing other essays, I think I got more out of this than writing essays about books or novels because it's something that affects me every day. I mean, I use what I learned from that essay even now when I view rural areas. So, I think I’ve learned a lot more from that and I’ve applied it to more aspects of my life than I may have in other essays.

LEGATE: I think it's interesting that you said it was harder for you to take a side because I would agree. When an issue feels so personal like this, you do really think about which perspective you want to take, whereas in an essay that might be about something that maybe you don't feel as directly attached to you— maybe pick a perspective and support it—it maybe doesn't feel quite as personal, so it's not as difficult to decide which viewpoint you want to adopt.

So I guess I can just open it up: is there anything else that you feel like someone listening to this podcast—about argument writing, and specifically about place-based argument writing—that you think those people would want to know?

TANNER: I would say, before you make an opinion, put your feelings aside. Even if you're biased, right now try your best to put them aside. Learn all the facts that you can. Take everything into account, even if it hits you so personally, because you may be missing something. So, get the facts first and then base your opinion on the facts.

SEAN: I think if you're trying to write a paper, try to look at it from as many perspectives as possible and maybe you'll get insight on something else you want to write about. See yourself in someone else's shoes. See yourself with your personal stories and what you've experienced in life, and then look at it—trying to think about nothing that you had in life—just off of the papers. Then eventually, when you put it all together, you can use all those viewpoints to make your argument a lot stronger.

ABIGAIL: Along the lines of what Sean and Tanner said: just understanding others’ viewpoints, and understanding that while you may have an opinion, that doesn't mean other people don't have opinions, their opinions can be right, too. Instead of just saying that they're wrong because they're not yours, they can still be right; they just may have a different perspective. Everyone has different things that make their viewpoints different to them. They may have different beliefs, or they may have looked at different research than you have. So just listening to their perspectives, I think you can learn a lot about yourself and your argument. Just trying to be more understanding overall.


LEGATE: Having that conversation three years after they took my class was just so exciting, because I loved hearing what they were able to take away and still be using. But I also loved that they were echoing the principles of place-conscious education without even knowing it. They talked so much about how writing this argument that was personally connected to them was so much more meaningful even though it was more challenging; they felt they got a lot more out of that; and they felt more attached to what they were writing. It felt more authentic. I loved hearing that. Then, of course, the big takeaway of argument writing that they had—about considering all the perspectives and all the facts before arriving at a claim—I feel like that's something that I hope is useful to them in school, but also beyond. That's the kind of citizenry that we want: one that's informed and considering everybody's viewpoints before they take their position.

BROOKE: Thanks, Melissa. I wanted to say, too, about this text set that you did at the secondary level with your students: a version of that same text set is something that I’ve developed for use with college juniors. I’ve been using that text set for two or three semesters in a course called “Writing and Uses of Literacy” at the junior level, and I found that the students often explode that same way. The text set I’ve been using has Paul Gruchow’s wonderful article “What We Teach Rural Children,”[ii] a segment out of “The Rural Brain Drain” from Carr and Kefelas’ Hollowing Out the Middle,[iii] a piece about personal migration coming back to the Midwest by Scott Sanders called “The Common Life,”[iv] and then Debra Marquart's wonderful essay “Things Not Seen in the Rear View Mirror,”[v] which is about going back to North Dakota for her father's funeral and seeing all the ways that her community is invested in the place, and she's migrated off for some time.

What I found with college juniors here at Nebraska: they're coming from all over the state—places like Pierce, but also other communities in place—and they often use that text set to identify the complexity of the issues surrounding rural decline in the communities that they've emerged. One really quick story I might tell is about a young woman from Bennet, Nebraska, which is a small rural community—just a bedroom community—for Lincoln. She's going into healthcare for her profession. One of the things that stood out for her, reading these things, was thinking about how it was that doctors and nurses and nurse practitioners, as a group, tend to migrate away from rural Nebraska into other areas of the state. There's a chronic need for work being done in the health services out there. She jumped from that to do her final project and how it was that healthcare providers might be enticed to go out to join rural Nebraska in at some point. She's going to be a dentist when she gets done, and so she was focusing on how to return to rural Bennet to become a dentist. I thought it was kind of interesting.

So, I think my point here is that the kind of text set that you're doing—that taps the geographical realities of the place where we live anyway and places across the country—is a very powerful pedagogical mechanism for getting folks jump-started into thinking in really exciting ways like what they're doing here. But your project didn't end with the rural decline text set; you guys went on from there. Is that right?

LEGATE: Absolutely. Because the focus of my thesis was this argument, I wanted to continue on with those skills as well. After we tied in this rural decline argument with the poetry unit, our school's curriculum for ninth grade then has The Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet coming up next. And so, I thought even though those maybe didn't feel as place-conscious, we could still practice the principles of C3WP. As we did those particular literature units, we did some mini-unit arguments with that, tied thematically to both of those texts. That way, students weren't losing the concept of writing a nuanced claim and using those multiple perspectives to illustrate your claim, or to counter it, or something like that. So, they were still allowed to practice those writing skills even though we weren't back in that world of place-consciousness.

From there we ended up in our final project, which was a research project. I wanted to tie that back into place-consciousness, so what we had done right before that—I forgot to mention this one after Romeo and Juliet—but we had read a Holocaust literature unit, and so I tied in thematically a short text set on protests and whether that was an effective means of civic participation. From there, then, we started asking ourselves Now, what kinds of issues are in our communities that we might want to do something about? whether it's protesting, or some other sort of civic action, or participation. After asking ourselves those questions, we had this whole list on our whiteboard of different issues that affected the students at a very local level—like in school, to broadening out a little bit to our town, to our state, to our county, and then some that were a little bit more global or national. Students picked one that they felt attached to particularly, to research, and then built their own text set that encompassed lots of different perspectives on that issue.

One that really stood out to me was a student named Dylan. He ended up writing his argument on our local recreation area, Willow Lake. We have a beautiful, big, giant lake that attracts a lot of people every year to boating, and fishing, and jet skiing, and swimming, and all of that great stuff. Every year, though—because we're in an agricultural community—we find that it gets these blue-green algae blooms that get so high that they're to that toxic level, and so they end up putting in a lot of restrictions on people swimming in the lake. It ends up harming some of the wildlife in the area. Dylan’s dad worked closely with people at Willow Lake, and he's also a hunter—so he's a very conservationist-minded kid—so this definitely stood out to him. He did a lot of research. He looked up some general information on blue-green algae and how it gets started, because at the time he didn't know that it was because of fertilizer and field runoff and stuff like that, and so when he discovered that, that really helped inform his perspective. One of my favorite pieces of research that he did was an interview with the Willow Lake superintendent. He actually sat down with him and got a lot of information about Willow itself, and how much it brings into our community, revenue-wise, and what people in our local community have done about this to try to combat this issue. He ended up finding out that Willow brings in about $100,000-$200,000 of revenue to Pierce annually, but the superintendent of the lake told him that this is really heavily impacted when the blooms get to that toxic level—because then, you know, if you can't swim in the lake, nobody's going to come. Once he found out all of this different information, he ended up making the argument that some solutions, involving like keeping cattle out of creeks that feed Willow, and encouraging farmers to do things like plant cover crops that would kind of lessen the field runoff—should be put in place. He found a lot of this information in his interview with that lake superintendent, who had told him that the Nebraska Game and Parks actually offers financial incentives to farmers sometimes to keep their cattle out of the creeks and stuff like that. He proposed that more of that kind of stuff needs to happen at the local level. We do a lot of testing of the algae levels and things like that, but he wanted to do more about what should be done to prevent it in the first place. I thought it was so interesting because he's an ag kid—he's really involved in FFA at our school—but he's also, like I said, very into hunting and fishing, too. I love that his argument was so nuanced to the point that it valued the conservation of Willow, but it didn't vilify the farmers, either. And actually, his solution ended up being something that could benefit them too.

BROOKE: Now remind me—was his or her parents father farmers?

LEGATE: His parents were not, but his extended family, like, grandparents are, yeah.

BROOKE: Okay. Did he report to you having conversations with his extended family about the issues that he was finding out?

LEGATE: You know, he did talk a little bit about how this just changed his viewpoints on things quite a bit after he had all of the information. It was just interesting to read his author's note about how he went about discovering this information and how it really opened his eyes to things that he didn't know before. It was interesting to him because it's an issue that once again is in his backyard, and one that we hear about every summer, like, Oh, now we can't go to Willow, because this week the blue green algae is back, you know. A lot of people maybe want to have opinions on it, but don't have all the information, and so he felt now he had all that information; that he understood the nuance of this problem so much more.

BROOKE: Right. And the nuance is connected to having different people, who are real people in the community, having different stakes on the argument—on the decision—what they're going to do. If you're telling me, and I’m a farmer, that I’ve got to keep my cows out of the darn creek, and that's what I’ve been using to get them watered, that's kind of an issue for this.

I’m reminded by your story of the kind of opening up of local controversy—that especially in small rural communities in the Midwest here often go underground—that get exposed by the kind of projects like this that we're doing. I’m remembering a project that my colleague Sharon Bishop did in Henderson around the center-pivot irrigation system that is all across Nebraska, and the degree to which the center pivot irrigation system was drawing from the aquifer; the questions when young people began understanding water—began looking at water—in the city; how difficult it was to get the different perspectives in order; the effect of water reduction on wildlife; the effect of water reduction on the crops that their families depended’ on the science of whether the aquifer was reducing or not. These were all huge issues, and they could connect them right to adults in their community that—in the privacy of their own interviews— had very strong opinions that often conflicted with other people in the community. The young person was left trying to make sense of this. I think it also make sense of one of the big pushes across the C3WP platform: what happens when we live in a culture where diametrically opposed arguments exist, and we need to talk across them and some others.

I wanted to ask you too if, when they turned in their final arguments, were you the only person who saw them? Or did they actually share them with some of the people that they interviewed?

LEGATE: in a lot of cases, I probably was the only one. I know for this one, that the student did end up sharing some of his work with the guy who he interviewed as a thank you for helping him get so much of his research done. But yes, that is definitely a step that I want to take, but it’s thinking about how to do that in a way that students don't feel nervous, I guess, to share their real perspectives. Because it is kind of scary, in a community like ours where your viewpoints are largely the same, to be a dissenting voice.

BROOKE: And that issue of going public with dissension, I think, connected with the protest stuff that you were doing right before this. It’s very interesting work.

In the C3WP program that you studied and worked with, how does C3WP make the case for having us go public with our claims at the end of that?

LEGATE: Sure. C3WP really wants to create authentic writing for students, and I think that is part of the authenticity: focusing on audience and writing for real people and the real purpose. I know that several of the many units do talk pretty heavily about that concept of understanding your audience and using what you know about them to build your argument, and even when you're sharing your perspective, how to do that in a way that's not going to turn your audience off and things like that. Those are skills that are built into the C3WP curriculum, so it's definitely something where you do want to encourage students to share their work, so it's not just written in a vacuum.

BROOKE: Thanks, Melissa, for that description. I’m interested in how the work that your students did, who the audiences was for that. Because you're talking about that through the C3WP program in your class. I’m not sure with this class they necessarily had the opportunity—except by individuals—to go out to connect with adult audiences in the community, but I’m wondering about how you might imagine a context that you could create in and around the school itself that allows students to share their research projects with the adult constituents that are part of what they're doing.

LEGATE: Definitely. You know, as a teacher, it's something that comes naturally to you; you're always thinking about how you could improve what you just did. As proud as I am of the work that the students did, and what they gained from these projects, I’ve always known that like this is the weak point for me as a teacher. I need to give them that authentic audience and have them practice that audience awareness and just how important that is. In future projects with them that are similar to this, what I would like to implement is this element where they have to imagine who their authentic audience would be, and then use the awareness of their demographics as they write. From there, once they've selected that audience—because it is going to vary widely depending on what the student's project is—then they would actually present their work in some way to their constituents. I had some students write about very microcosm type things that were just within the school, so I’m thinking about their audience probably being our administration or our school board depending on what type of issue they wrote about. The presentation of that might look different depending on their audience, too. Their administration is very busy, so it might be one of those things that they have to think about how they would condense their argument into a short presentation that would engage the principal, but also give him all the information that he needs. Same way, if they presented to the school board—if the issue was a little bit more broad and affected local things—I would like to see them think about how they could craft their research paper as maybe an editorial that goes into the local paper, or something that maybe appears on our school website, because that's something that reaches a lot of parents and stakeholders in the community as well. So, that’s definitely something that, moving forward, I want to tweak with the project and add into it. I think that really adds some richness to it when you're thinking about who you're writing to and how that affects not just what you say, but how you say it

BROOKE: Yeah, those are cool things. As you're talking, I’m thinking about folk within the Nebraska Writing Project network who are also doing place-based programs like yours but maybe not with the C3WP material in inputting it yet. Just a quick two examples of moving to a public audience that I think fits with some of these:

I remember some years ago my colleague Sharon Bishop in Henderson, the year that Henderson was consolidating. Small rural schools have a hard time keeping alive; they often have to consolidate with a school next door. Henderson-Bradshaw was going to become a new school district, and the kids were worried about that. The research project that the senior class took on that year was to explore what happened historically in the city of Henderson the last time there was a school consolidation, which had been about 50 years ago when all the church schools became Henderson Public Schools. They had about six different rural church schools out there. Her kids went out and interviewed all the adult elders that were still around from that period of time; gathered that information; found out some horror stories about the families that weren't talking to each other after 50 years, and some other really nice stories about the way things worked out. They brought that all, and she had the students at the very end do a presentation PowerPoint in suits and ties to the school board about what they found out and what the recommendations of the senior class of this year was for the coming. That was a really authentic audience, and the neat thing about it was that Sharon and her students got a range of adult responses back to them to thank them for their hard work and presentations on that.

Connecting with thinking, I remembered Cathie English for a bunch of years when she was teaching in Aurora, which is another small town—it's a little bit bigger than Pierce, but it's about mid-central Nebraska—also an agricultural city changing its demographics as it's getting absorbed in by the Grand Island metro network right now. She had her students do a several-generations-back interview about the livelihoods of the main breadwinner in the family, and then ended up choosing one of those people to do a video presentation about that person's life. And of course, collectively, the class was able to study what the changing demographics of employment was as this part of our country moved from what had largely been agricultural only to now a lot of suburban bedroom community people going off to work in the other communities and coming back home. When they were able to showcase those profiles of the family elders to the to the community—outpouring of love and affection from the community because there was something really happened that went on in some ways. So, I’m interested in the ways that the C3WP work you're doing in Pierce might connect with the connection to actual audiences in the communities that already exist. I don't know. Those are some of the thoughts I had at this point.

LEGATE: I think that's great! My wheels are already spinning. you know, as I’m thinking about Okay, how am I going to do this next year? because it really it does add like it even an extra level of engagement. As engaging as the students already find this project, I can't imagine how much more invested they would feel in presenting a really quality product if they knew a real audience was going to see it, not just Mrs. Legate.

BROOKE: Yeah, it’s sort of exciting that extra layer of audience that comes in. I think that's also part of C3WP's push towards making nuanced claims go visible into public and civic discourse, where we need discourse which is not just shouting at each other but in fact engaging in nuanced thinking about that.

I think the work that you're doing here is connected to other folk in our network who are trying to develop place-based text sets around local issues—not just the ones that are part of the training program for C3WP but allow out local issues seems to me that you worked with some of the people who are doing this, too.

LEGATE: Yeah, absolutely. The rural decline text set that was used in my class was actually developed by a colleague Adam Hubrig when we were taking that initial course over the summer where we learned the C3WP program. Each of us developed some units that we imagined we might use in our class, and that was one that he presented to us. As a rural educator I was just like, Oh yes, I have to use this, because kids are going to really latch on to something like this that is just so important to their actual lives. I was really excited to be able to use the text that he had curated around this issue, and of course C3WP teaches those principles of how to create the nuance when you're making those text sets. From his example, and then the other training, I was able to feel a lot more confident going ahead in making other text sets that fit into my curriculum.

BROOKE: Adam's a great example there. I’m thinking two of our colleagues at Lincoln East High School who developed this semester—as we're recording this in the COVID-19 semester—and they developed a text set based around a variety of approaches to COVID-19. As we all went on to online teaching, I think that would have been amazing and exciting for the students. I’ve talked with Adam, too, and he's experimenting with having his students- he's shown what a text set is, and then on a civic issue in the community that they are potentially passionate about, to create for each other text sets that they think represent the variety of stakeholders that are approaching whatever it is in the community. Adam is a college teacher that teaches often sophomore college writing. I’m not sure whether that translates in, but I’ve been very excited about that kind of process that we're going on.

Okay, gentle people, I think we're reaching the end of our time and I wanted to sort of end this podcast by pointing to some of the work we've done. This podcast has largely been trying to articulate how it is that the C3WP text set argument based nuanced claim approach fits intimately with place-conscious education and the community engagement that we see that we're going on one of the place-conscious principles that I find to come back to over and over again is that to do place-conscious work we are asking young people to engage over and over again in celebration and critique of their local place to pick out what's really valuable about their experience there and all the people and aspects of the local place that really make that place valuable and also what needs to be critiqued in the local place if their local community is going to survive and thrive into the generation that moves forward it seems to me that the work we're doing with place-based education and C3WP is a tool to have us join those two things together and I’m really excited about the potential for that

So, thank you all for listening to this podcast and I hope you've enjoyed listening to it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. Goodbye for now. This is Robert Brooke for the Writing Project, signing off.



Plainstate is produced by Robert Lipscomb. Post-production by Steven Ramsay. Music by Shadows on a River. On behalf of the Department of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, thank you for listening to the Plainstate podcast. Tagline forthcoming.

[i] Rural Voices: Place-Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing. Ed. Robert E. Brooke. New York and Berkeley: Teachers College Press and National Writing Project, 2003.

[ii] Gruchow, Paul. “What We Teach Rural Children.” In Grassroots: The Universe of Home. Minneapolis: Milkweed, 1995. 83-100.

[iii] Carr, Patrick and Maria Kefelas. Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for America. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

[iv] Sanders, Scott Russell. “The Common Life.” The Georgia Review 48.1 (Spring 1994). 7-22.

[v] Marquart, Debra. “Things Not Seen in the Rear View Mirror.” Camas: The Teller Issue 5.1 (2001). 18-21, 36-39.