August 05, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell University has received a $16,000 seed grant from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust to fund an interdisciplinary environmental humanities program focusing on the Susquehanna River’s rich history and ecology.

The program, called “Cultures at the Confluence,” will relate the history of the Central Susquehanna Valley to contemporary landscapes and the environment and involve development of an online guide and summer workshops for undergraduate student writing and teacher education.

Alf Siewers, assistant professor of English at Bucknell, said that the “Cultures at the Confluence” project will serve as part of the Environmental Humanities Initiative at the recently established Bucknell University Environmental Center (BUEC) and help to tell the story of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

Student-faculty collaboration
“To date, the key historic role of the central Susquehanna Valley has been largely overlooked,” said Siewers. “The goal is to highlight regional narratives of place, relate history to the physical environment and use cutting-edge approaches and technology that will deepen understanding of the area’s past and natural resources.”

Katherine Faull, a professor of German and humanities at Bucknell, said students and professors will collaborate on an online guide about the region encompassing the confluence of the Susquehanna River – a geographic area extending from where the West and North branches of the river and Shamokin Creek meet to form the river’s main branch.

“The initial focus will be on digitizing and posting research-related materials on the 18th and early 19th century history of the region – from the time of Chief Shikellamy to the rise of the area’s lumber and coal industries,” said Faull, who has been researching the region’s history, including a study of 18th and 19th century Moravian diaries of the Old Shamokin community at the Confluence.

Additional materials from local archives, she said, will be digitized and added to the online guide.

Summer workshops
Another facet of the program will consist of initiating a series of summer institutes led by Chris Camuto, an author and assistant professor of English at Bucknell.

“These student workshops will focus on enabling college students to write non-fiction essays in order to explore the deep ecology of the central Pennsylvania region,” said Camuto. “The student-written essays will be published online, giving voice to an appreciation for the region’s rich past and challenging future.”

Additional workshops will be developed for elementary, middle and high school teachers to introduce them to the online guide and to encourage them to incorporate the program’s materials into lesson plans.

Over five years, the program is expected to involve an estimated 100 undergraduate students from the Susquehanna Valley and teachers from a dozen area schools.

The effort will be coordinated with Bucknell’s 2008-09 Focus Year on the Susquehanna Valley, co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office and the BUEC Environmental Humanities Initiative. Top scholars in Native American studies in the Northeast, as well as internationally known scholars in environmental humanities and regional studies, will come to Bucknell to help provide a framework for the effort.

Based in Syracuse, N.Y., the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust was established in 1975 with a goal of enhancing the quality of life in many geographic areas. The Trust has supported projects in arts and culture, community development, education, the environment, historic preservation and journalism.

Contact: Office of Communications