Mountain Crest students explore mythology, legends and folklore

Mountain Crest students examine submissions to USU's Fife Folklore Archives. The students were tasked with analyzing stories in the collection to explain their cultural significance. 

Thirty five students from Mountain Crest High School took a field trip last Friday, visiting Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library to tour the facility’s <a href=””>Fife Folklore Archives</a>. The students then visited the Logan City Cemetery, where they participated in a hands-on field research project to view several headstones and monuments in the cemetery with historical and cultural significance, including the legendary ‘<a href=””>Weeping Woman</a>.’

The students’ teacher, Kimberly Sorensen, coordinated the midterm field trip as part of an assignment in her mythology classes. Exploring the academic discipline of folklore, her students are learning to observe and record their cultural environments. As they study mythology, legends and folklore from the past, the students, who are mostly seniors, have also been assigned to choose a subject of interest to them and gather contemporary stories. Their work will then be submitted to the Fife Folklore Archives, which is one of the largest repositories of American Folklore in the United States.

“All of us love to hear stories,” said Sorensen, “and this is a perfect project for teenagers. They are learning how to be observant and how to be analytical writers, and as the kids complete and present their own projects to the class and submit them to the University, they will have something to hold in their hands that demonstrates how communities are brought together through the culture of storytelling.”

During the first half of Sorensen’s course, students have been learning about the legends of other people. Throughout the second half of the course, they’ll write and submit their own.

“I love learning about what makes people who they are,” said Josie Hall, one of Sorensen’s students. “I really loved this field trip because it gave me a chance to kind of sit down and look at what makes our culture here in Cache Valley who we are today, so that was really cool.”

Hall said the field trip gave her a good idea for the subject matter of her own folklore project, which will be due during the last week of February. She’s planning to focus her efforts on various trends over the past few decades that became wildly popular for a short time and then fizzled out.

“When I was in sixth or seventh grade,” she said, “it was the most popular thing to wear the weird feathers in your hair, and I thought it was so cool. I had to have one! But looking back on that, it was kind of silly.”

Silly or not, trends like Hall’s ‘weird feathers’ and legends like the ‘Weeping Woman’ shape a community’s cultural heritage.

“A lot of what brings a community together is knowing what we came out of,” said Alejandro Loneli, another of the field trip participants, “Looking back at these cemeteries gives us a look into our history of this place that we all have built together as a community, so it’s important to remember that.”

Sorensen is thrilled with how the field trip enriched her course curriculum and seemed to inspire her students.  

“Bringing these students here to Utah State has been a beautiful experience,” she said, “just to see their eyes light up as they see the reality of history and the reality that what they’re collecting—their own folklore—is important. It’s a reflection of their culture and of their years and of 2017. Now they’re collecting something about their time that will be preserved and will be there for the future, so I think it was really special to see them realize that.”

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