WHS students hope to make their own history

Saturday, February 28, 2009
By Cary Shuman

By Pete Legasey
For the Transcript

Nearly 100 Winthrop High students are participating in this year’s National History Day Competition. Some students worked as individuals, while others formed into small groups to create educational projects on historical figures for this year’s theme of “Actions and Legacies”.

All of the projects were done by students in Maria Flanagan, Jen Adams and Peter Sklarz’s history classes. The teachers have selected 16 of the most impressive projects to be entered in the regional round of the competition, which will be held at Winchester High on March 8. The top projects there will move on to the state competition at Clark University, where they will have an opportunity to earn a spot in the national competition at the University of Maryland in June.

Many students created large display boards with various photographs and biographical clippings about the historical figure they chose for their project, while others produced short film documentaries and created websites. For each project, students had to complete process papers with annotated bibliographies. The National History Day competition emphasizes the importance of original research for projects, including the use of both primary and secondary sources. Students are discouraged from using unreliable sources such as Wikipedia and other websites that are not peer-reviewed.

The colorful projects ranged in focus from pioneers and heroes (Jackie Robinson, Elizabeth Blackwell, Red Auerbach, Mahatma Gandhi) to influential artists (Elvis Presley, Pablo Picasso) and even a few notorious outlaws (Al Capone).

Junior Marissa Gardikas chose to do a project on Anne Frank, the teenage girl killed in the Holocaust, whose diary became an inspirational tale of perseverance and hope in times of tragedy. Marissa constructed a cardboard display decorated with passages from Anne Frank’s famous diary, biographical information about her childhood and some background information on War War II and the Holocaust.

“I was trying to show how people still read her story and relate to her, even though she was a young girl who died a long time ago,” said Marissa. “She went through horrible things in the Holocaust, but the story she told in her diary is really touching.”

Brendan Ronan, a junior, was part of a group that produced a documentary about the life of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. “We focused on the impact he had on American society and the fight for civil rights,” he explained. “We also talked about how he affected the space race and other things that went on throughout his presidency. He was important in how he affected so many different people – not just rich families, but poor ones, black ones, white ones – all kinds of people.”

Other projects that will be entered in the regional competition include the work of freshman Lauren Corolla, who created an exhibit on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female to receive a medical degree. Lauren’s project displays a copy of the diploma Blackwell received and photos of the hospitals and training facilities Blackwell established.

Sophomore Ariane Seymour teamed with another student to construct a similarly formatted display about the life and work of Walt Disney. Juniors Stephen Ruggiero and Kyle Gagan, who earned an honorable mention in last year’s competition for their project on Muhammad Ali, teamed up again this year to create an exhibit on Elvis Presley.

“We are very excited,” Maria Flanagan said. “Win or lose, we are just thrilled with the level of student participation, and the fact that Winthrop will be well represented at this year’s competition.”

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