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Menahga History Day

By Nick Longworth

For the past three months, the sophomore class at Menahga High School has been working on a history project as a part of National History Day.

The projects were on display Monday, Feb. 10 in the high school media center. They will not only be a part of their classroom grade, but could also earn some a chance to advance to the regional and state competition.

According to its website, National History Day is an inter-disciplinary research project for students in grades 6-12. It teaches students to: conduct in-depth research, use primary and secondary sources, read a variety of texts, analyze information and write and present historical content. Students choose a topic that relates to an annual theme, research that topic and develop their research into one of five presentation categories: research paper, exhibit, documentary, performance or website. Students may then enter their projects into History Day competitions at school, regional, state, and national levels.

“In our school we have been doing History Day through the curriculum as part of the 10th grade English and history class for about six or seven years. Before that it was more of a volunteer and after-school history club, but then we started doing it as a part of the entire class. I have been involved in the History Day program probably 10 or 11 years total,” said Stephanie Kramer, a social studies teacher at Menahga High School.

The projects themselves are a coalescence of both English and History class curriculum requirements, while also tying in state education requirements as well. The event is sponsored locally by the Minnesota Historical Society.

This year’s theme was “rights and responsibility.”

Each 10th grade student starts their research in hist-

ory class. They take that research and go to English class where they write a formal research paper. When they’re done with that, they turn around and make an exhibit; most kids do the website or the poster board here. It’s a big collaboration between English and history. It takes many, many weeks and is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. The last week especially takes a lot of preparation and scrambling around, but they do a great job,” Kramer said.

Both Kramer and English teacher Stephanie Hansen collaborated on the projects goals and due dates, allowing the students to get the most out of the experience.

Students were allowed to work individually, or in groups.

“If you look at the state standards for education in social studies and English, the entire 10th grade has to write a formal research paper. Now this is a chance to integrate their education; to take something their doing in English class, pair it with history and then make it more meaningful. In terms of standards for literacy and writing in social studies, this is exactly the kind of stuff that the state wants us to do. Students have to evaluate something, have primary and secondary sources, create a view and then be able to prove it through documentation and research,” Kramer said.

Kramer likes the fact that the project isn’t only focused on one singular goal, such writing an essay or creating a project. Rather, the projects are a hybrid of many different learning objectives.

“It’s not just ‘I’m going to write something about the marines in Vietnam’. It’s ‘I’m going to come up with a thesis about what the marines in Vietnam had to do with rights and responsibility. Then I’m going to prove it to you with my writing and my project’. It’s really a higher-level learning skill that we want our students to have,” Kramer said.

“It’s a challenging assignment, but you’re combining a lot of skills. I think a lot of students appreciate seeing the relevance in presenting what they know to others.”

Local judges rated the projects based on criteria such as history quality (accuracy, context and research), relation to theme (readability and significance), clarity of presentation (demonstration) and adherence to rules such as poster-size requirements and a 500 word limit on the essay (with a bibliography included).

“Some students will face these kind of competition-based activities through BPA and other groups, but for some this is completely new to them; we did a 5th grade “interest fair” and they haven’t done anything like this since then. It’s a fun thing and they really enjoy it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a wonderful learning experience,” Kramer said.

After the competition is over, the projects are then also taken into account for part of their classroom grade.

“I grade them separate from what the judges say. The judging experience is a chance for them to talk and experience explaining their project to someone new. From a different viewpoint, judges evaluate projects for advancement in the competition. But they don’t have anything to do with the grade I give them.”

Four group projects, three individual projects and four websites were chosen upon Monday’s completion to advance to the Regional competition at Minnesota Sate University-Moorhead on March 11.

Winners who will advance on to the regional competition include: Hannah Vonada, Heidi Skoog, and Danielle Novak for their website project on Vietnam Veterans; Caroline Koch for her website on the Little Rock Nine; Craig Isaacson and Drew Franklin for their website on the Japanese Internment; Kirsten Tolkkinen and Laura Niska for their website on the underground railroad; Shalom Crook and Jennifer Stifter for the display on the 19th amendment; Carmen Lake and Chrisann Makela for their display on Clara Barton; Bock Skoog, Grant Skoog and Seth Makela for the display on Marines in Vietnam; Tamiika Moe and Anne Hendrickson for their display on the Berlin Airlift; Jordan Sanders for his display on WWI, sub-warfare and trade; Megan Huhta for her display on the Triangle Factory Fire and Marisa Aho for her display on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

Volunteer judges included: Steve Bruer, Brenda Shepersky,  Alex White, Diane Schilling and two Menahga seniors who previously participated in History Day with winning projects: Abigail Jokela and Donald Wurdock.

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364