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Flint Hills Media Project celebrates 10 years

The Flint Hills Media Project, an immersive, experiential learning class through Wichita State University, will celebrate 10 years this summer.

The Flint Hills Media Project has documented the Symphony in the Flint Hills and its surrounding communities since 2010. The project will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer.

Through written stories, photos and videos, about 160 students have covered the Symphony in the Flint Hills at sites across Kansas — telling the stories of not just the signature event, but the tallgrass prairie and the people who live and work there.

The project launched in 2010, born out of an idea from Elliott School of Communication instructor Les Anderson. Les had attended the Symphony in the Flint Hills one summer and noticed that no local media covered the event, which since 2005 has attracted about 7,000 visitors to pastures around the state for a symphony concert. He became fascinated with the event and its mission: to heighten appreciation and knowledge of the Flint Hills tallgrass prairie — one of the last remaining in the world.

He partnered with fellow instructor Amy DeVault to host the applied learning class one summer, with no plans of making it a yearly project. It was terribly windy that day at South Clements Pasture near Bazaar, Kansas. Photo files were unorganized. Students weren’t armed with the proper equipment. Still, their work documenting the 5th annual symphony published in publications across the state.

Instructors realized then how many more stories were yet to be told. And so the Flint Hills Media Project was born.

Each summer, students’ stories, photos and videos publish on social media and flinthillmediaproject.com, in a print magazine and in local newspapers and TV and radio stations across the state. Each symphony site, which changes from year to year, has presented new challenges, a new set of students and new ways of telling stories. There are flat tires and bad reception. Lots of dirt and sunburns. Ever-changing tools and technology.

Ten years later and the project has evolved and expanded, with a network of project alumni now located all over the country. In 10 years, students have interviewed thousands of people, written about 350 stories and produced 166 videos, plus tens of thousands of photos. The project is a partnership with the Symphony in the Flint Hills nonprofit organization, which hosts its signature event each June.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Flint Hills Media Project invites its alumni to attend the 14th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 15 at Irma’s Pasture in Chase County — free of charge. Former students should RSVP by taking an online survey: https://forms.gle/DCYxFfQAJqCLYr1w5

On June 15 project alumni can mingle under the media tent and share memories of years past. Visit an educational tent at 1:30 p.m. to hear FHMP alumni talk about how the project has impacted their careers and built life-long friendships.