Geography Education
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Economic Decline and Sense of Place

"McDowell County, situated in the coalfields of West Virginia, has experienced a great boom-and-bust since 1950. But despite the economic decline and population loss, many still call it home and feel a great sense of purpose among the mountains. Residents speak about their connection to this place and the meaning of 'home.' Hear more stories at "

Seth Dixon's insight:

This video perfectly exemplifies some key geographic ideas; sense of place, regional economic decline, migration and resource extraction.  This video would be great to shows students and then get them to analyze the geographic context that creates a place like McDowell County, West Virginia.  This will be a great addition to my Place-Based Geography Videos StoryMap.  

Tagseconomicplace, industry, location, migration, APHG, poverty, socioeconomic.

dilaycock's curator insight, April 29, 2014 6:51 PM

Excellent example of urban decline. Would pair nicely with a reading from 'Rocket Boys' by Homer Hickam Jnr, or with the movie version 'October Sky.' The book and movie are the true story of a boy in Coalwood, West Virginia in the 1950s who is determined to  "escape" working in the coal mines to become a rocket scientist.

John Nieuwendyk's curator insight, September 16, 2014 11:02 PM

 McDowell, a once thriving county in the 1950’s ceased to keep up with the ever-chaning world. There was little need for coal after the 1980’s so work became scarce and the “Brain Drain” began. Those looking for a successful future left for there was more choice elsewhere and economically it would make no sense to stay in McDowell. Nevertheless, cultural upbringings paved way to this "Boom and Bust” town, which gave people a sense of place and identity. Though McDowell is economically on the decline the communal relations and sense of place the community holds is still strong. 

Luke Walker's curator insight, October 3, 2014 3:41 AM

Develop your sense of place regarding the coalfields of West Virginia.

What geographic context (location) might create a place like McDowell County, West Virginia?

Geography Education
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Curated by Seth Dixon