SL students excel in history competition

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

SLHS named School of the Year, SLMS runner-up for state of Iowa

How much do you know about the Battle of Wounded Knee? Or about the Nineteenth Amendment or baseball great Jackie Robinson?

If you're a little behind in your history lessons, you might want to give one of these Storm Lake Middle School or High Schoolers a call. These students, who participated in the National History Day project, are masters when it comes to history, and they have the awards to prove it.

National History Day (NHD) is an academic enrichment program that enables students to learn about historical issues, ideas, people and events by completing a project such as a documentary, paper or performance.

That's all no sweat for these talented students.

It was recently announced that Storm Lake High School was named School of the Year in the Senior Division (grades 9-12) for NHD in the state of Iowa and Storm Lake Middle School was honored as runner-up for School of the Year in the Junior Division (grades 6-8) in Iowa. Twelve SL students also qualified for the national competition, with two placing in the top 14.

"We were very proud of them," Storm Lake NHD coordinator Roberta Moore said. "I think they (the awards) show that our students do excellent work. The National History Day project is not easy. These kids have to persevere through the project. They have to go out and interview people, and it's quite an extensive project. I think the awards show that our students have initiative and that they're willing to stick with the project and do a really polished job."

In a letter to Storm Lake superintendent Bill Kruse, Naomi Ziller of the State Historical Society congratulated Kruse on the district's NHD success by saying, "You should be very proud of the National History Day program in Storm Lake; it has a reputation for excellence and is a model for students and teachers all across the state."

Students presented their projects at the district level in March, with the top two in each category moving on the state competition in May. From there, the top two projects in each category advanced to the national competition, which was held in June at the University of Maryland.

The trio of Alicia Mangold, Jenny Rodger and Erin Taphorn qualified for the national competition and finished 12th with their Senior Group Performance project "The Amish School Controversy: Religious Rights and Educational Responsibilities." The girls also earned the Country Schoolhouse Heritage Award at the state competition. Tyler Kirkholm brought home a 13th place finish with his Senior Individual Documentary "Wounded Knee and The Rights and Responsibilities of the Native Americans."

Kirkholm has been active in NHD since seventh grade, and his latest trip to nationals marked his third time competing on the national stage. Kirkholm chose to craft a documentary about Wounded Knee after learning about the topic in his American Heritage class at SLHS. Kirkholm said he did extensive research about the subject.

"I went to the public library and then took a day to go to the BV library since they have the special collections and microfilm," Kirkholm said. "I also went to the Sioux City library."

Kirkholm can't even count the number of hours he spent on the documentary, which he ended up completely altering before nationals. For the district and state competitions, he did a slide presentation and for nationals he converted his work to a video.

Placing in the top 14 at the national competition is a feat that Moore says doesn't come easy.

"They do a lot of research," said Moore, who won NHD Teacher of the Year honors last year. "They go to libraries, look at writings and go to museums. With their presentation they also have to submit paperwork which includes an annotated bibliography, telling where they sited their sources and how each one helped them."

Rachel Hustedt also qualified for nationals in the Senior Individual Performance category with her project "Equal Rights for All: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" as did Collin Taphorn's Senior Historical Paper "The Babel Proclamation: Silencing the Rights of the People." Matt Bowman, Kelly Evans and Kim Thayer's Junior Group Exhibit "Scottsboro Boys: Rights Barred" earned them a trip to nationals along with Katie Demers, Stephanie Emery and Justine Scarbrough's Junior Group Documentary "One Right, Twenty-seven Million Responsibilities: Alice Hamilton and the Nineteenth Amendment."

In the Junior Group Documentary, Lisa Burnside, Nick Crippin, Dustin Friesen and Pearl Kohl were alternates with their project "The Scopes Trial: The Evolution of Teachers' Rights."

Taylor Anderson was also awarded the Outstanding Entry in African-American History Award at the state competition for his project featuring Jackie Robinson.

Moore is the SL schools' Talented and Gifted teacher, and she requires the students in her program to complete a NHD project. She says NHD is just like any other school activity, though, as all students are welcome to participate.

Students have a wonderful opportunity to utilize technology in their projects, making use of iMovies, video and digital cameras, scanners and editing equipment.

"They're really fast learners," Moore said of the students.

Moore isn't sure how many schools from Iowa participate in the state competition, but she says more than 700,000 students participate each year nationally and there are 2,300 students who compete at the national event.

With all the research and analysis that has to be done to complete a project, it's clear that students gain a jump start on developing those critical skills.

"(NHD is) very beneficial," Moore said. "It really prepares the students for work in college. They have to do a great deal of research, so they learn how to research and analyze sources, especially with the Internet. It really prepares them by being poised when they have to defend their projects."

Kirkholm wholeheartedly agrees.

"It hooks you," he said. "It helps you tremendously. You write better and research better and that will help in college, and it even helps in high school. It's very worthwhile."

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