The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in the Lake City Market Area: A Case Study of Technology-intensive Community-based Research

The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in the Lake City Market Area: A Case Study of Technology-intensive Community-based Research

Cora M. Allard (Clemson University, USA), Debbie G. Whittington (Florence School District Three, USA) and Barbara J. Speziale (Clemson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-623-7.ch036


In 2005, Clemson University’s SC LIFE Project and South Carolina’s Florence School District Three began a collaborative project to catalyze research among teachers and students in the rural community. This project piloted the concept of using Web-based videoconferencing to allow university faculty to facilitate research in a precollege setting. This technology removed the more than 200 miles distance between the partners as an impediment to the participation of district teachers and students in Clemson University programs. To prepare teachers for the research, an online course was developed and disseminated from Clemson University via Macromedia Breeze. Teachers and administrators from Florence District Three met with Clemson University faculty through videoconferencing and bulletin board technology. District personnel chose the theme, “The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in the Lake City Market Area.” The school district personnel also gained proficiency in digital technology skills (e.g. Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Premier Elements, Movie Maker) that they and their students used to collect information and create a final DVD.
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SC LIFE offers life sciences education and research opportunities for college students and for precollege students and teachers, with a strong focus on exploring local natural history. Technology education is interspersed throughout SC LIFE programs, from creation of online “virtual field trips” to South Carolina natural areas (SCETV), to assisting teachers to create instructional DVDs for their classrooms using digital editing software. This collaborative project expanded these instructional techniques to involve students as young as elementary school age in a technology-intensive research project on a community-based topic. In order to motivate students to participate and to foster their vested interest in the project outcomes, leaders chose tobacco farming, a theme of local relevance (Trexler, 2004). According to Lave (1988), developing relevant community-based themes for research projects should also enhance the learning experience for the students; learning occurs in a context and culture (situated learning). The theme of the project, “The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in the Lake City Market Area,” was relevant to many individuals in the rural farming community that encompasses Florence School District Three. The main municipality in this district, Lake City, was once the site of one of the largest tobacco leaf markets in South Carolina (Chamber of Commerce). As tobacco farming declined in the region, most families quit the industry and the once iconic tobacco barns fell into ruin. This theme fostered exploration into the sociological, cultural and biological aspects of tobacco cultivation, negatives and positives, in the community.

Florence School District Three serves approximately 3550 students and is comprised of five elementary schools, two middle schools, an alternative school, a career school and a high school. The district is located in an area that was profiled in the 2005 video, Corridor of Shame, which exposed the poor conditions in rural school districts in South Carolina. District-wide, 87% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. Prior to this project, Florence School District Three’s interactions with Clemson University consisted of sending nine teachers and 45 students from three schools to the campus each year for the two-day Biology Merit Exam. By using technology, we were able to engage with 20 teachers and approximately 600 students from eight schools in the project over the course of a school year. In addition the project involved many families, businesses, agencies, farmers, local artists and museums.

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