After nearly two months’ worth of research, writing, planning and cutting and pasting, students at Sinagua Middle School unveiled their National History Day projects Thursday.
The majority of the projects were posters with displays, but some students created websites or skits devoted to their particular topics, said seventh grade Social Studies teacher Veronica Villegas. Students also have to write a paper describing what they found out about their topic and provide a bibliography, and they have to be able to summarize their findings in one paragraph.
National History Day is a nationwide contest that started in the early 1980s in Cleveland. The idea is not only to get students interested in history but teach them how to correctly research a topic, learn about different types of sources that can be used in research, writing skills and critical thinking, Villegas said. A different theme is chosen each year by the National History Day organization. This year’s theme was “conflict and compromise in history.”
Students get a list of suggested topics, but are strongly encouraged to pick a topic that interests them, she said. This helps get the students interested in the project. The projects on display Thursday ranged from discussions about Queen Mary I, otherwise known as Bloody Mary, to the Iran hostage situation and the history of National Hockey League.
Dysen Bush focused his project on what started the Civil War.
“My dad and I like big events in history. The Civil War is one of our favorites,” he said.
Bush found that the war was caused by the controversy over slavery between the Northern and Southern states.
“The Southern states wanted the Northern states to catch the runaway slaves and return them. But the abolitionists in the North didn’t like slavery and didn’t want to return them. So they tried to make an agreement, but it didn’t work,” he said.
Bush said he thinks he did much better on this year’s project than last year’s.
“Last year I used a lot of information from Wikipedia, but it’s not a primary source, so some of the information wasn’t good,” he said.
This year, Bush said he used more primary sources like the giant book on the history of the Civil War that his dad got him and another Civil War history book he found in the library.
Gus Fox picked his topic, the mine wars of West Virginia, from a list of suggested topics. He said he had a hard time finding sources because so little has been written about the conflict. The mine or coal wars of West Virginia were a series of strikes by coal workers in West Virginia in 1912 and 1920. The strikes culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain, a shootout between Baldwin-Felts agents and local miners, that was one of the biggest conflicts in the country since the Civil War, Fox said.
Villegas said she and other teachers have been pleasantly surprised by the creativity and quality of the work some students put into their National History Day projects. When you give students a chance to pick their own topic and encourage them to pick one that interests them, you can get some amazing projects from students who may not be at the top of their class, she said.
Students who excel at their projects have the option to compete at a regional level, she said. Teachers usually help students who want to move on to the regional competition to polish their projects. Students who make it through the regional competition are able to compete at the state level and possibly go on to the national contest.