Urbana Junior High students displayed their broad understanding of history Tuesday at the school’s first History Day competition.
Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades chose their own topics for the competition, Technology and Social Studies teacher Amanda Goodwin said. The focus could be on any historical event, and the students took advantage of that.
Projects ranged from “The Space Race” to “The Spice Girls” and “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.” The most common displays were the traditional tri-fold cardboard variety, though “The Space Race” took it a step further with a rotating cardboard space shuttle with information displayed all around its surface. Several displays were shown on computer, and some were performances of some type.
Goodwin started the History Day competition at Urbana this year, her first year at the district. She previously had History Day competitions while teaching at Triad Local Schools.
“The amazing thing about it is this is project-based learning,” she said. “The kids are in control of what they are learning, how they are learning, and how they show what they are learning.”
The competition took place at the Champaign County Historical Museum on Tuesday night, though it took several weeks for students to research their projects and prepare them for display.
Winners of the inaugural competition for individual exhibits were Marah Donohoe, Grace Hower, Lillian Matteson, Emily Skelley and Zoey Cahill. The winners of the seventh and eighth grade individual exhibits were Paige Deere and Jessica Hughes. The winners for the seventh and eighth grade group exhibits were Telanei Brown and Jocelyn Holtsberry, Katie Brazille and Grace Hepp, and Samantha Rooney and Aryn Upchurch. Website individual winners were Jacob Lattimer, Hannah Louck, Laythyn Zachrich and Shi-Anne Settle. Website group winners were Logan Pence and Patrick Karg, and Madison Dyer and Alyssa Holland. Documentary seventh and eighth grade winners were Grant Hower and Austin Rooney, and Gatlin Ridgwell and Andrew Pickering. Performance winners were Breeanne Stouffer, Atticus Bloemhard, Landon Turner and Raegan Hepp.
Choosing their projects
Eighth grade Individual Exhibit winner Jessica Hughes chose her project, “Bridget Bishop: The Gateway to the Salem Witch Trials,” after recalling hearing about it when she was younger.
“It just came to my mind,” she said.
Hughes said the trials were rooted in distrust of other religions, and often the women were convicted with little to no evidence. Bishop was one woman who had been accused several times. One charge eventually stuck after “evidence” was manufactured by others.
Hughes said she loves doing presentations and enjoyed working on this project.
“It’s fun. It challenges you to explore, research and express yourself in the project,” she said.
Sixth grader Jaedyn Green chose to focus on “Black Wall Street,” a little-known or documented event that occurred in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The community of successful black businesses was destroyed by a white mob fueled by Jim Crow distrust and the Ku Klux Klan. Thirty-five blocks of the Greenwood section of Tulsa burned to the ground, according to an article on pbs.org. Also referred to as the “Tulsa riot,” reports on the number of blacks killed ranged from 25 to 300, and approximately 20 whites were killed.
The event is not well known, and Green had to do a lot of searching for references.
Green chose the topic because his stepfather got him interested in black history.
“I asked him about topics people didn’t know about,” Green said of his conversation with his stepfather. He said his stepfather named several historical incidents.
Eighth grader Daniel McKenzie loves outer space, so he chose to focus on the Apollo 13 mission.
“I wanted to do the first (space) mission, but others were doing that,” he said of fellow students focusing on the space race.
McKenzie said he “learned a lot,” noting he knew only a little about the mission before researching it. He added he had not seen the Apollo 13 movie, but he plans to now.
“It was a lot of fun, researching new information and watching videos about it,” he said.
Goodwin said she had students emailing museums nationwide to get feedback on their topics and seek more information. The students were excited to get emails back.
Winners will compete regionally in Piqua, then go to state competition if they win at regional. From there, the final competition is in Washington, D.C., with competitors across the nation.
Goodwin said she has been a member of the Historical Society and having the school district and museum work together to highlight and promote history was “really exciting.”
“It’s so exciting to watch kids get the freedom to choose a topic and how to display it,” she said. “It gives them the freedom to do that research and take those extra steps.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.