Building a More Perfect Union: Morehead Writing Project and Hindman Settlement School Awarded Pandemic Recovery Grant

Grant funded by the National Writing Project as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking program

The Morehead Writing Project and Hindman Settlement School are pleased to announce the awarding of a grant through the National Writing Project’s Building a More Perfect Union, a grant program for humanities organizations across the United States to assist in recovering from interruptions to operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking for Organizations at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Building a More Perfect Union program funds organizations to develop programming in anticipation of the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

“We could not be more pleased with the opportunity offered by this grant,” said Morehead Writing Project Site Director Dr. Deanna Mascle. “We love the work that our partner, Hindman Settlement School, does in our region. The synergy created by the missions of our two organizations with the Building a More Perfect Union program will unleash a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers that ripples from teacher to student to our entire region.”

The Morehead Writing Project and Hindman Settlement School will join forces to create a project-based learning humanities program for several eastern Kentucky communities. Morehead WP teacher-leaders will be recruited to prepare and teach a project-based humanities unit. The students of these Morehead WP teacher-leaders will develop passion projects in art, music, history, foodways, or culture to preserve and celebrate what connects us as humans and Americans.

“Hindman Settlement School is happy to partner with Morehead Writing Project in this project,” said Melissa Helton, Community Programs Manager. We understand the power of engaging youth in the history and traditions of their region. The curriculum and teacher training from this summer program will have far-reaching benefits for our students, schools, and communities.

American poet, novelist, and folklorist James Still personifies the spirit of the partnership envisioned by Hindman Settlement School and the Morehead Writing Project. Rooted deep in the traditions of eastern Kentucky and its storied past, both Still’s work and the goal of this partnership bridge past and future from foodways to culture to literature.

How it was in that place, how light hung in a bright pool

Of air like water, in an eddy of cloud and sky,

I will long remember. I will long recall.

The maple blossoming wings, the oaks proud with rule,

The spiders deep in silk, the squirrels fat on mast,

The fields and draws and coves where quail and peewees call.

Earth loved more than any earth, stand firm, hold fast;

Trees burdened with leaf and bird, root deep, grow tall.

Wolfpen Creek by James Still

Root Deep, Grow Tall: Celebrating heritage and changing lives one story at a time builds on the Project Based Learning (PBL) teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. Students work on a project over an extended period of time that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. Students develop both knowledge and skills by creating a public product or presentation for a real audience. As a result, PBL fosters deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. Combining PBL with Hindman’s existing humanities programming will create a powerful launching pad for engaging eastern Kentucky youth and communities with the rich culture and tradition of our region. By changing their entire relationship with discovery, choice, voice, agency, listening and speaking skills, PBL unleashes a contagious, creative energy among students and teachers and when connected with community is a powerful, transformative experience that ripples from teacher to student to community to region to nation.

“I’m thrilled to be working with eastern Kentucky teachers to build a culturally relevant framework for student projects,” said Liz Prather, Morehead WP teacher-leader and the author of Project-Based Writing. “Driven by student passion and fueled by their interest in the food, music, and history of their region, these projects will be exemplars of what can be built when students are allowed to explore their own culture in order to intersect with the world.”

The awarded projects, selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process, are located at local, regional, or cross-regional organizations such as nonprofits, museums, libraries and archives, historic sites, and public-facing humanities centers at colleges and universities across the country. This funding will help such entities restore programming post-pandemic and to engage or deepen collaborations with stakeholders and communities that will expand their reach.

“Each project contributes to a shared national conversation in important ways.” said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director of the National Writing Project. “Building a More Perfect Union recognizes the unique role that local, regional, and cross-regional humanities organizations play in understanding and making visible fuller stories of our national experience.”

Awardees plan to “build a more perfect union” through expanding access and raising the visibility of lesser known stories and histories in regions and communities, engaging communities through participatory public humanities events and opportunities, and developing institutes and curriculum with teachers and students to support K12 classrooms.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is grateful to the National Writing Project for administering American Rescue Plan funding to help local and regional humanities organizations recover from the pandemic,” said NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo). “These ARP awards will allow archives, libraries, museums, historic sites, and other institutions around the country to restore and expand public programs that preserve and share the stories of the communities they serve.”


About Morehead Writing Project: Created in 1986 to serve the teachers and writers of Eastern Kentucky, the Morehead Writing Project fosters the development of new leaders in education K-16 every summer through its Summer Institute; offers writing programs for writers of all ages throughout the year; and works with school districts and programs in the region to provide youth programming and/or professional development. For more than three decades, Eastern Kentucky educators trained by the Morehead Writing Project have helped writers flourish and their peers succeed in the classroom.

About Hindman Settlement School: Serving as a regional center for literature, arts, and humanities-centered education since its founding in 1902, Hindman Settlement School has sought to celebrate the rich cultural traditions of central Appalachia and its people while developing programs of distinction that serve to improve the overall quality of life for the children and adults who call these mountains, “home.” Hindman’s mission for the past 119 years has been to provide education and service opportunities for people of the mountains, while keeping them mindful of their heritage.

About National Writing Project: Through its mission, the National Writing Project (NWP) focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to help youth become successful writers and learners. NWP supports a network of local Writing Project sites, located on over 170 university and college campuses, to provide high-quality professional development in schools, universities, libraries, museums, and after-school programs. Through its many successful programs and partnerships, the organization reaches 6 million Pre-K through college-age students in over 2,000 school districts annually and prepares 2,500 new teacher-leaders each year. NWP envisions a future where every person is an accomplished writer, engaged learner, and active participant in a digital, interconnected world.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at