(Photos provided) Akron-Westfield students advancing to the national level for National History Day are, left, Madonlin Young won senior individual performance honors; in the middle, the members of the Junior Group Documentary are from left, Peyton Small, Melissa Fairbanks, Reegan McKee and Nathan Schoenfelder; and right, members of the Junior Group Documentary are from left, Elizabeth Philips, Avery Graswint, Morgan Knapp and Tess Frerichs.
AKRON — Three National History Day projects by students at Akron-Westfield Community School are competing nationally in June.
Akron-Westfield National History Day teacher/mentor Val Philips said AW had 10 projects, involving 24 students, that represented the school at the state level.
This year’s theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences”.
The three candidates for the national competition are:
A documentary by the junior group: “Tell me and maybe I’ll forget; show me and I may not remember; involve me and I will understand: The history of the Osage; a documentary”, by students Nathan Schoenfelder, Reegan McKee, Peyton Small and Melissa Fairbanks.
A junior group performance: “Iowa Girls Basketball: A Century of Debate”, by students Elizabeth Philips, Tess Frerichs, Morgan Knapp and Avery Gaswint.
A Senior Individual Performance: “Upton Sinclair: Bringing a Debate to Expose Appalling Conditions”, by Mandolin Young.
The school also had two projects chosen as alternates for the national competition. They are:
“The 1955 Le Mans Disaster: Debating Race and Diplomacy for Better Security,” a senior group website by Thomas Lane and Matthew Beierschmitt.
“Jazz Diplomacy: Melting the Iron Curtain”, a junior band website, by Elijah Oetken, John Higman and Spencer Nelson.
A sense of normalcy
Nominations advanced following the state competition held in person on April 25 in Des Moines.
“Students and teachers/mentors were so excited to have an in-person contest again,” Philips said. “It was so rewarding to be back in person. The students again felt validated for their work. It’s quite difficult to stay motivated with virtual competition, so they strived to be at the top of their game. art for the state in person.
Worthy of an excursion
Schoenfelder spoke about the Junior Group documentary on the Osage.
“All four members of my group spent a lot of time brainstorming what we could do, we all knew we wanted to do something with Native American history because it was nothing we had ever studied in depth. Our mentor actually brought up the idea because she had read a book and been through the cities where it was on trips. We took it and that’s basically it,” he said. .
Their research took an interesting direction.
“We used a lot of old newspaper articles and photos and documents dealing with Osage treaties, but we also took a trip to Oklahoma to meet some people in person, which really made our project more promising for the future of the Osage that dark and grim as if it were a dying nation,” he said. “It took quite a lot of research and sometimes it was hard to find what we needed because there was so much new information on the subject.”
The four students spent time researching and putting sources on their topic, then compiling it all into the bibliography.
“Then we composed the script for the project. After that, we started the process of making the actual documentary,” he said. “First we had to do the audio recording and then we were able to start putting in images and video clips that matched what we were trying to portray. After that, one of our band members edited the clips to make them more professional. But we weren’t done after that because there were always adjustments to the project and revisions.
A look back
The performance of the Iowa Junior Women’s Basketball Squad covered a familiar yet unfamiliar topic to the girls.
As Elizabeth Philips explained, “We chose the topic because we all play 5-on-5 basketball and had never heard of the 6-on-6 version. It sounded very interesting and fun to learn, and at During our research, we have seen several prominent “debates” that fit this year’s theme “Debate and Diplomacy in History”, including the formation of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union in 1925, Title IX, the lawsuits court cases and when schools could choose between 5-on-5 and 6-on-6.”
The group’s research focused on finding the most important debates in 6-on-6 basketball history, according to Knapp.
“When we were researching, some of the sources were easy to find and some were more difficult. The research process was really helpful as we learned how to identify factual sources and opinions and how to cite and annotate sources in our bibliography,” Knapp said.
In their research, the girls found first-person resources in several Akron ladies who played 6-on-6 basketball.
“We used interviews and newspaper sources the most. We interviewed several women who were playing 6v6 and the executive director of IGHSAU,” Gaswint said. “We also did a Zoom interview with Sean Naismith, the great-grandson of James Naismith, who invented basketball. We found many articles in the Iowa newspapers about the entire history of women’s basketball, especially many news articles from the state tournaments in Des Moines each year.
A deep commitment
Putting together a group performance takes a lot of time and study.
During a group performance, students had to use their research to write a script for a 10-minute performance.
“We found assigned characters and roles and everyone had to memorize our lines. We also had to find costumes to represent the characters and eras,” said Elizabeth Philips. “Because we covered 100 years of women’s basketball history in Iowa, we had several costume changes, including 1920 managers, IGHSAU manager E. Wayne Cooley, a coach, lawyers and basketball players of the 1920s, 1950s, 1970s and today. .
“It was our first year at NHD, so writing the script and memorizing our parts was tough, but we practiced hard and we got it,” she added.
Gaswint said: “The team worked together dividing the project into parts so that we each researched a different time period or event and then combined what we learned and helped each other out when things went wrong. became difficult.”
A wave of emotions
With the district competition being held virtually this year, as is the national competition, the students were excited to have an in-person state competition.
“It’s been a lot of fun, the last two years, even though I said I wasn’t able to compete in person because they closed it due to the pandemic,” Schoenfelder said. “I wish I could have gone more than once, but I’m sure my younger siblings will be going to the Nationals so I can go with them.”
For Knapp, it was the judges.
“It was really fun competing at the state because we performed for the judges in person instead of for the districts where we had to tape the performance and we did that multiple times. Going to the state pageant was fun because we got to meet new people and learn about the subject from the judges.
Philips said: “It has been difficult for the past two years, not having nationals in person. A lot of that ‘carrot’ of going on a cool trip is taken out, so I really respect and appreciate the kids who participated in story day this year, because the kids didn’t get that ‘carrot’ to the last two years, and therefore those who chose to get involved this year, they did so above all for their learning.
A love for NHD
While Philips first became involved with National History Day when her children participated in the 1990s, she is still very dedicated to the project.
“It’s a program I believe in so much because it’s absolutely wonderful for student learning. What I really like is that students can choose a topic that interests them. It really inspires them not only to choose a subject but also to choose the medium, whether it’s a performance, a documentary, a website or an article, it really gives them a great ownership of what they do and create,” she continued.
“That’s why I’ve been with it for so long, I actually retired four years ago and then went back to it during the pandemic, because it was driving me crazy. Now I’m back to teach language arts part-time, but I also do History Day. I really believe in the program.
Develop the program
Support from others has also helped the NHD program in Akron-Westfield.
Val said the school has a mentorship program and currently two strong mentors who work with the students in their groups. Mentors encourage the group in their work.
“They’re trying to get a state-level mentorship program,” she said.
At AW, Joanie Noble is mentor for documentaries and LeAnne Philips is mentor for group performances.
“I also attribute this to the success of our program,” she added.
As it is difficult to bring students from groups together during the school year, extracurricular meetings work well.
“They don’t mind coming after school,” Philips said. “I think it also becomes a social aspect and that helps. I always tell them, divide and conquer, have different jobs within the group. It seems to work well for us.