Hundreds of students from region school districts showcased their projects for central Minnesota’s History Day 2015 competition in Atwood on Saturday.
The History Day judges came to the Atwood Memorial Center Saturday morning for an orientation from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. to learn what exactly judging entails. After the orientation, the 57 judges were cut loose to make their way through Atwood to examine roughly eight presentations each. This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy.”
Students showcasing their projects had advanced from a school competition. Broken into two divisions, there was a junior division, grade six to eight, and a senior division which were high school students.
Students were to give either an individual or group performance, display an exhibit, or show their documentary and website. If the student chose to write a research paper, it was to be sent off and judged by state.
Moving through Atwood’s Ballroom on the second floor, visitors and judges passed by numerous student projects. Three-panel poster boards stood on rows of tables, with presenters waiting for judges to come their way. The projects were decorated with pictures and snippets of information gathered by students, and often student laid their research paper in front of the poster board.
Leaders of all kinds were covered by students, including former presidents of the United States like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, but also featured activists like Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King Jr.
Mike Stuber, social studies teacher at Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph, and Lynnsey Plaisance, special education pair educator at St. Francis, were judges this year.
Having been Stuber’s first time, he said “it’s been very impressive what the students come up with. They’re nervous, but they’re very composed.”
Stuber and Plaisance judged a student’s project that incorporated pictures he took of the Panama Canal for his project on Theodore Roosevelt.
“Their passion” was the most impressive aspect of the competition, Plaisance said. Agreeing, Studer said that “they take something, and they run with it. They’re so detailed and they know what they’re talking about.”
She said that when she was in school, she competed in the competition, too, and knows how much work it can be. She said that student will start around October or November.
“As a teacher, I would like to start this in my school someday,” he said. Stuber said he’s fairly new at his school, and his district, and in St. Francis, do they have this competition. “This a way for me to learn more about it.”
From 9 a.m. to noon, judges stopped at presentations and projects, taking note of the details and brainstorming their favorites. Around noon, judges were to head upstairs in Atwood in the Cascade room to talk with other judges. History Day staff greeted and checked in judges and were getting ready to crunch the numbers about who advances to the next level.
On Atwood’s main floor, Sarah Terwey, History Day intern, worked with other interns throughout the morning to help guide competitors and families in the right direction after checking them in.
Terwey said that before this event, some organizations, college students and History Day interns helped students from competing schools gather primary and secondary research and data from libraries in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including the University of Minnesota campus library.
She said that interns are often in the classroom, helping teachers and students with the process, whether it’s working on strengthening their thesis statements or finding more ways to present their exhibits, acting as a mentors to the students.
“It is so much fun,” she said. “The students are going to gain a lot of the research skills necessary for collegiate, or even upper-level high school research projects.”
“They’re also going to figure out what it’s like to be a historian.”
Terwey, also a social studies education major at SCSU, started her internship in January, expecting to finish in April with about 100 hours spent with the teachers and students
“It’s not only a learning experience for the students, it’s a learning experience for the interns as well,” she said. “Because now, not only are we learning how to interact with these students and guiding them in certain areas, we’re also learn some more of the technology components too.”
“It’s actually really exciting, and a lot of students really get into it,” she continued. “And they make their websites super graphic and organized, it’s insane how professional these websites and exhibits look.”
“It’s a wonderful experience for the students to have.”
Ending the competition, competitors, families, teachers and judges filled Ritsche Auditorium around 2 p.m. for the award ceremony. After a brief introduction, students were called to the stage to accept their award and their medal before getting their picture taken. There were 30 to 40 state qualifiers. Having lasted about a half hour, a final applause sounded through the auditorium before the ceremony concluded.