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Southern Culture Project: River Songs

Overview. This thematic project focuses on river songs--tales of the navigational trails in the six southeastern states.

Project Summary. Rivers have frequently been the topic of music in the southeastern U.S. Some songs tell of those who traveled these water trails, some are about the river itself, while some spin tales of events related to the river. Others touch our emotions with stories of sorrow and woe or of joy and happiness. Still, other pieces of music ignore lyrics and bring the spirit of the river to the listener simply by the tempo and the instruments used. This online thematic project provides classes an opportunity to conduct research on the rivers used as themes in selected music of the southeast and to share their research either via a tour guide script or a campaign pamphlet.


Students in this project will use information located at http://members.aol.com/Mmcbs/music_frame.html, http://www.pbs.org/riverofsong/music, and http://memory.loc.gov as the main information sources to develop their products. For researching the historical, nature, social, and economical facts/events connected with the rivers, students should use these and other online materials as well as print sources.

A confirmation e-mail will be sent to participating classes.

Grade Level. 4-12.

Project Objectives. This thematic project focuses on river songs--tales of the navigational trails in the six southeastern states.

Subjects. Fine Arts, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Technology.

Procedures for Participation.

  1. Participating teachers are encouraged to review the online resources listed below to gain awareness of the vocabulary used and the themes involved:
    1. From http://members.aol.com/Mmcbs/music_frame.html specifically study:
    2. From the PBS and Smithsonian series, River of Song at http://www.pbs.org/riverofsong/music/, study the upper and lower Mississippi sections, in particular http://memphis.bcentral.com/memphis/stories/1998/09/21/story7.html, and from the National Park Service review the songs and story behind the singing park ranger at http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/nationalparks/intheparks/intheparks.html.
    3. At the Library of Congress's http://memory.loc.gov website, study the sheet music section. You can locate this section either from the index listing (to right side of the home page) or by searching on "river songs" using the search feature. Even though few of the selections can be directly related to rivers of the southeast, they provide insight into the spirit and emotions given to rivers.
  2. The class assignment is to study the Web sites provided along with any other appropriate electronic or print resources in order to submit at least one version of one of the projects listed below.
    1. a word processed file of a script for a tour guide to use in providing a river boat tour along the river to a group of tourists. The script should be for a 3-5 mile stretch of the river, to include an appropriate river song as well as events, stories, and/or information about the culture, history, and wildlife in the area and associated with the river. In addition, the script should distinguish which stories are fact and which are probably myth. Environmental and cultural issues that are important in the region and reflected in the selected music need to be included in the Tour Guide's script. (Word limit: at least 200 words)
    2. a desktop-published campaign pamphlet that addresses environmental, industrial, tourist and/or cultural elements for the region. The pamphlet will campaign for an issue by including data, stories or events of the region/river, and include verses from the river song to help persuade the audience of the writer's position. The pamphlet is to contain at least one jpeg file of the river or the need/problem and the words from a song about the river.

Please Register. To continue providing free Web resources and lesson plans, the federally funded SEIR*TEC group must document the number of teachers using its materials. Please register if you intend to use this lesson plan by e-mailing your name, e-mail address, school name, and location, to Jeni O'Sullivan ([email protected]).