By Sue Botos
History projects have definitely evolved beyond pictures taped to poster board.
Students from Rocky River Middle School and Lutheran West High School made history themselves, recently, using websites and multimedia presentations to win recognition at the National History Day Contest on March 15 at the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS).
This was the first appearance for Rocky River Middle School, which fielded 40 students, comprising teams that created projects supporting this year’s theme of “Rights and Responsibilities in History,” which focused on the importance of ensuring civil and human rights for all people. Projects dealt with subjects such as the Holocaust, the Underground Railroad and the Vietnam War. At locations throughout the U.S., over a half-million middle and high school students took part in the event.
Taking home the first place trophy for “Best History Exhibit, Junior Division/Middle School” were Youssef Salama, Hussein Alshaikhi, Peerawich Sukphanich and Eric Combes for their entry, “Japanese American Internment Act (1942).” Their project focused on the placement of 127,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The team will advance to the state National History Day (NHS) competition at The Ohio State University on April 26.
Dave Ressler’s 28 U.S. history students from Lutheran West entered 11 different projects covering topics like slavery, segregation and the Sam Sheppard murder case in their third year of participation, and for the first time, the Longhorns will send students to the NHS state contest. The students began work on their presentations in November with a trip to WRHS, many going back for further research.
The top three winners in each of nine high school categories earned a trip to Columbus. Kaitlyn Carleton was the first Lutheran West student who placed, earning a third place trophy for Senior Individual Website for her project, “Jefferson’s Concept of Inalienable Rights.”
“Kaitlyn has worked really hard on her website and took the advice to reach out to others to look at her website and take their suggestions,” Ressler commented.
The Kent State University shootings were the topic of Julie Jenkins’ Senior Individual Exhibit, focusing on the right to protest. Using multimedia, she re-created the May 4, 1970, event in her exhibit, earning third place. “Julie put a lot of time into the research of a very controversial event and had a very well-organized exhibit,” Ressler noted.
Eye-catching effects and extensive research won a third place trophy and other recognitions for Stacy Kauntz and Rachel O’Connor’s Senior Group Exhibit titled “Belle Sherwin,” which focused on Sherwin’s dedication to the women’s suffrage movement and its impact on the U.S. The exhibit featured dozens of primary sources, a detailed time line, and lights drawing the eye to the project.
Aside from their ticket to Columbus, Kauntz and O’Connor won a local history award from the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, and the Minority History Prize
from the Shaker Historical Society. “It was evident at first sight that
Stacy and Rachel put a lot of time and effort into their exhibit,” remarked Ressler, adding, “It was very well-organized and deserving of state qualification.”
Prior to the competition at WRHS, Rocky River Middle School history teachers and administrators served as judges for an in-house contest. Salama, Alshaikhi, Sukphanich and Combes took the gold medal for their internment project, while Chris Feighan and A.J. Ihnot won silver for “Trail of Tears – Indian Removal Act of 1830.” Tommy Kelly, Thomas Krizman, Michael Shoaf, Tommy Koch and Wilson Young earned bronze for “Nelson Mandela Versus Apartheid.”
According to history teacher Frank O’Grady, the 14 teams entering the WRHS competition were comprised of students in grades six through eight, all members of the school’s National History Day Club, an extracurricular after-school program geared toward eighth-graders to complement their U.S. history curriculum.
O’Grady noted that the opportunity enhanced the students’ understanding of history. He added that they displayed “wonderful teamwork, camaraderie and excellent dedication and participation.”