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Getting a historical perspective

Six Marshall Middle School students are taking part in the 2012 State History Day competition

April 25, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - When Marshall Middle School teacher Sandy Carpenter found out there was a regional History Day competition held at Southwest Minnesota State University in March, she couldn't wait to get kids involved. And, of the 12 MMS students who competed, half of them qualified for the 2012 State History Day competition this weekend at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

"It was awesome," Carpenter said of the regional competition. "You can either perform as a group or as an individual. There are different categories, including exhibit, paper, website, performance and documentary. My goal next year is to expand our participation."

The first person who Carpenter got on board to do a history project was fifth-grader Ammran Mohamed.

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall Middle School eighth-graders Destany Soupir, back left, Emily Rogers, Eukariah Tabaka, Marissa Condon, front left, and Meredith Waterman dressed as historical characters as part of their performance for the upcoming State History Day competition. Fifth-grader Ammran Mohamed also qualified with her exhibit on the Boston Tea Party.

"I chose Ammran because she helped her dad study for his citizenship test," Carpenter said. "She can say everything on that citizenship test, so I knew she had background."

Mohamed advanced to the state competition with her exhibit project.

"I did the Boston Tea Party for the History Day competition," Mohamed said. "I picked the topic because I learned part of it in social studies with Mr. (Mark) Schwanebeck. I thought it was interesting, so I wanted to learn more about it. I thought if I made a poster, I would learn more about it."

Carpenter pointed out that this year's theme was "Revolution, Reaction and Reform."

"Students have to take that topic and say how it fits the theme of 'Revolution, Reaction and Reform,' or whether it's 'Reform, Reaction and Revolution.'

"Students have to start with what we call secondary documents, where they just Google search and look at books and textbooks. They're also required to write a process paper and create an annotated bibliography."

During the process, Mohamed said she learned a lot.

"I found out how they smuggled native goods from the Native Americans while they were boycotting British goods," she said. "I also learned that the quote 'Rally Mohawks, bring out your axes and tell King George we'll pay no taxes' was a reaction. The reform was the taxes."

Carpenter said that most of Mohamed's critiques came back in the excellent to superior category. But Minnesota State Historical Society representatives did have a few suggestions to help improve the project for the state competition.

"I'm glad I did this," Mohamed said. "It's been exciting. I'm going to do it again next year."

The one stipulation this year for Mohamed is that she cannot advance to nationals even if she wins at the state level.

"It's a National History Day restriction, that you have to be in sixth through eighth grade," Carpenter said. "Since she's fifth grade, she'll be allowed to participate in State History Day competition, but if she wins, she would not get to go to nationals, which is in Washington, D.C."

In addition to sixth-grader Morgan Radel, 10 eighth-graders from MMS also competed at the regional event. A group of five eighth-graders - Marissa Condon, Emily Rogers, Destany Soupir, Eukariah Tabaka and Meredith Waterman - qualified for the state competition on April 29 in the performance category.

"It's pretty cool that we're the first group from Marshall to do History Day," Condon said. "I feel like I've accomplished something already in my life. I'm looking forward to seeing the other groups' performances and how well we can do ours."

Waterman explained that within the group, characters include a narrator, Christopher Columbus and his crewman, pirates and Cotton Mather. Tabaka added that there's a governor and a villager, too.

"We convey information by performance," Condon said. "I think the most fun thing is learning how to gather information and convey it in a way that is exciting but also important."

Tabaka's favorite part is the performance.

"That's what I'm all about," he said. "It's a lot of fun, just putting on the costumes and becoming the different characters."

After school, Tabaka said, sets were built and scripts were written for the historic project.

"The timeframe is around the discovery of America and then part of the Golden Age of Piracy when Henry Morgan, who was pirate captain, attacked Puerto Principe in Cuba," Tabaka said.

There were some challenges while attempting to perfect their performance.

"I had to work hard on being mean," Condon said.

"The hardest part for me is trying to act drunk," Waterman said.

Thanks to various funding sources and a grant, all 12 participants were able to attend a trip to the Minnesota History Center and the Science Museum.

"The support at MMS has been absolutely wonderful," Carpenter said. "We were able to go to the Science Museum, which has the pirates exhibit and check out the historical aspect. The exhibit helped them immensely."

One thing Carpenter learned while she was there was that a pirate ship was typically very ethnically diverse.

"As many as 50 percent of the crews were African," she said. "And everybody on a pirate ship is equal. It's the law of the sea."

Before their tour, most of them assumed the captain got most of the booty.

"But we found out that nobody got more than the other," Waterman said. "All the treasure they found was divided up between everybody."

Condon learned a few new things, too, including actual drinking habits and the fact that there were two female pirates.

"We found out that pirates don't really like to drink on the ship because they could be attacked at any time," she said.

The pirates typically waited to drink until reaching a port, Waterman said.

The group also got an education on pirate terminology, including "rapier" and "cutlas" to describe certain swords.

The SMSU History Club members helped the MMS students prepare for competition.

"The SMSU students came to MMS on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January, February and part of March to help them understand how to look for documents," Carpenter said. "They had to be primary sources. In one part, Eukariah actually reads what Columbus read to the Queen of Spain."

Project Success students Josh and Jordy Escamilla also brought projects to the regional competition. Josh Escamilla's "Urban Warfare, Spanish Style" project was about the Spanish Civil War, while Jordy Escamilla, who was a runner-up, did his project on the forming of the United Nations.

"It was our first time and I was psyched that it went so well," Carpenter said. "We're very excited already for next year. Next year's theme is 'Turning Points in History.' I would say that most of the kids are planning projects again."



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