History Day challenges BCMS students | Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Schools
March 20, 2024

History Day challenges BCMS students

Presentation of research projects builds numerous skills

In a world awash with information, it is vital that students learn to discern reliable sources from those that are questionable, and to research historical information effectively.

Buffalo Community Middle School students took part in the History Day showcase and competition on Feb. 22, an event that challenged sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the Quest program to address the theme “Turning Points in History” as part of the National History Day in Minnesota event. Students chose a topic related to that theme, conducted extensive research, and presented their findings via dramatic performance, exhibit, documentary or website.

After the showcase during the school day, in which fellow students served as the audience, a competition followed. Participating students presented to judges with hopes of advancing to the regional and state competitions. In all, 29 students earned the right to advance thanks to the high quality of their work.

“I was really excited with how this year’s school event turned out,” said Quest English teacher Danielle Kelm. “Last year’s school competition got canceled due to an abundance of snow days, so we improvised and had a school showcase instead. This year, we were able to host both a school showcase for students to feature their work for peers and staff, and an after-school competition with judges and families in attendance. It’s the first year we’ve had an in-person competition since 2020, and it was great to be able to hold this event for our students.”

Those who advanced will compete at the regional competition this Saturday, March 23, at St. Cloud State University.

Student experience - Louisiana Purchase
Among those students advancing to regions are sixth-graders Abdullah Mudhafar and Henry Winger, who presented a dramatic performance explaining the Louisiana Purchase.

“It looked like a topic that would be really fun to dive into, and doing this really expanded our knowledge of it,” said Mudhafar, who played the role of Napoleon, among other characters.

“I personally did not know much about it before now,” agreed Winger, who played Thomas Jefferson and others. “I knew it was the purchase of the territory, but I didn’t really understand why it happened, what happened after, or anything like that.”

The pair has experience in recent community theater productions like “Finding Nemo Jr.” and “Willy Wonka Jr.,” and decided that a dramatic portrayal would be the most engaging way to present their research. 

“We decided it would be a really fun thing to do together and use our practical experience,” said Mudhafar.

Their research began in October and involved pouring through various publications, websites and maps to find historical documents and the motivations of the historical figures involved. They also constructed costumes and some simple props to enhance the presentation.

“We definitely learned a lot more about our subject, what happened before, and the impact of it afterward,” Winger said. “I didn’t know what an annotated bibliography was before, but we learned how to cite all of our sources with MLA style and we learned how to get really great information out of websites.”

“It was a lot of fun,” said Mudhafar. “Just seeing everything we worked on come together, it’s really neat.”

Student experience - Disney and entertainment
While Winger and Mudhafar were experiencing History Day for the first time, eighth-graders Miliya Chenvert and Lizzy Plaisted voluntarily took on the challenge even though it was not a requirement.

“We chose to do this. I had a lot of fun with it last year so I decided I wanted to do it again,” said Chenvert. 

Their lighthearted topic was Walt Disney and the way he changed the entertainment industry, and they enjoyed building on the logistical skills they developed last year to create an eye-catching exhibit.

“Last year was really hectic because I did a solo project and I had no idea what I was doing,” said Plaistad. “Last year, because it was our first year doing it, we learned more about how to find the right sources. This year, it’s nice to already know how to format everything. It gives you more independence.”

While most of their research took place online, Chenvert had the fortuitous opportunity to visit Disney World in Florida with her family just a few weeks before the showcase.

“That was a really fun experience. It just brought the project to life, to see how happy Disney makes people,” she said. “It was really kind of special because I was doing the research and knew more about it and was paying attention to that type of thing.”

Building skills
Nadine Two-Rivers, a Quest social studies teacher, also experienced History Day at BCMS for the first time this year.

“I could not have asked for a better turnout for my first History Day experience. Our students have developed their historical reasoning skills and created projects that were truly a product of their love for history,” she said, adding that the support from staff, parents, students and community members was impressive.

She added that the value of each student’s work went far beyond their specific projects to include the development of important life skills.

“As historians, we must be able to learn from the primary sources that we already have to answer questions about historical events,” she said. “Students were able to analyze a number of different sources and perspectives to become masters about their topic. The students also analyzed the long-term effects of their topics, and how they impact our lives today.”

Kelm added that the experience yields significant benefits that apply to any endeavor.

“The depth and complexity of the research done by sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders through this process is second to none,” she said. “If they’re competing, they create an annotated bibliography with at least 25 sources in them. They have to use credible, reliable sources throughout the process and synthesize their learning in their projects. They work across their social studies and English classes throughout the process, and they sometimes work across the grade levels, too.

“But beyond academics, this project pushes them to new limits as learners and teaches them soft skills like time management, perseverance, working through adversity, overcoming perfectionism and anxiety, collaborating with others, and so much more. What they do through this process is simply incredible, and I’m proud to be able to walk alongside them as they learn.”

The projects below are moving on to the regional event. There, judges will determine which projects advance to state in April.

•    “Nicholas Winton,” by Bella Young.
•    “The French Revolution,” by Davis Kelm and Will Umhoefer.
•    “The First Camera,” by Trent Elletson.
•    “Dungeons and Dragons,” by Maddie Estrada and Henry Evans.
•    “Walter Freeman and the Lobotomy,” by Lily Ettl and Evelyn Peterson.
•    “Betty Crocker,” by Josie Roehl.
•    “Radium,” by Elsie Johanson and LilyAnn Fix.
•    “Barbie,” by NoraMae Finke.
•    “Penicillin,” by Chloe Alvarado.
•    “Walt Disney,” by Miliya Chenvert and Lizzy Plaisted.
•    “The 19th Amendment,” by Gigi Butler and Lucy Kolkind
•    “American Women’s Liberation Through the Lens of Fashion,” by Sophie Durham and Jayla Loberg.
•    “The Louisiana Purchase,” by Abdullah Mudhafar and Henry Winger.
•    “The Stonewall Uprising,” by Juniper Lostetter.
•    “Titanic,” by Trinity Poepke and Maryam Sonbol.
•    “Pearl Harbor,” by Dallin Jerman and Karston Perkins.
•    “The Aural History of Fiddling in the United States,” by Violet Ditlevson.
•    “Chernobyl,” by Chandler Kariniemi and Keon Mech.

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