The trouble with history is, it sprawls all over the place.
More than 70 students at Three Rivers Christian Junior and High School in Kelso are reining in their topics for National History Days annual contest, “Turning Points in History!”
Four of them talked to us about what they chose to study and how they are working to finish essays, dramas, documentary films and exhibits by the end of the month.
Your might say William Ross, 18, has chosen a “tuning” point — he’s working with friend Miykael Tevis on “Why the World Rocks” — the evolution of rock ’n’ roll.
“It really created a culture change,” Ross said. “It changed how people dressed, how they spoke out more.”
He and Miykael will delve back as far as the 1920s, he said, for the roots of a music form that continues to have far-reaching effects on cultures everywhere. “We like classic rock, and we wanted to look into it more. How does it affect people’s lives?”
The 10-minute film the two are working on will use a different drum beat to launch each slide on a different topic. For instance, a segment on Woodstock will show how the music of the time changed how people felt about peace and money. “So many people showed up, they let them in free,” Ross said.
The older teens can work in pairs, but younger students work independently, the teens said.
That means Charity Tevis, 13, will tackle her topic, computers as a turning point, by herself. She, too, is looking back 90 years.
“I’m interested the mathematics that led to the electronics of computers,” she said. “Our lives would be totally different if we didn’t have computers.”
Tevis smiled about how she will work in an idea of how computers make a dramatic difference. “If we didn’t have Internet, would we be able to do these projects?”
Kaleb Jorgensen will build his presentation around the Manhattan Project — “the making of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, and the effects it had.”
“I’m a war fan,” the 15-year-old said. “It’s too broad of a topic, so I narrowed it to the Manhattan Project.”
Jorgensen is making a trifold, or three-paneled standing exhibit, which will have the American view of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan on one side, the Japanese perception on the other side. “I’ll probably show images of the explosion,” he said. “I want other people to learn what happened, how it affected people homes and their families. ... History helps us learn what to do and what not to do.”
Elizabeth McCarthy, also 15, has chosen a different turning point in military history.
She is studying “women in the military, and how their roles evolved,” she said. “In the Civil War, women were nurses. I want to see how it is different.”
All those years ago, for women to be in combat “was considered an abomination,” McCarthy said. “Now, women can fight.”
She is planning to use large cut-out figures, allowed in the contest rules, to illustrate women’s movement from nurses to soldiers with life-size figures dressed in different uniforms.
“I’ve heard a lot about women in the military. .. Women are more accepted. Laws have changed. There’s more equality. Learning about how women’s roles have changed really inspired me.”
The four students said they have a lot of ground to cover in 18 days, especially on top of other assignments and extra-curricular activities. Ross and his partner have worked for hours to complete just one and a half minutes of their documentary, he said. He is learning how to use editing software. He and Miykael will interview their parents, he said, but it can be tough finding sources. “We wrote a letter to Arrowsmith three months ago, but we found out it can take that long to get an answer.”
Charity Tevis faced a challenge last week when her family’s printer stopped working while she was working on her 1,500-word paper that accompanies each project — another ironic, real-life example of how computers impact the lives of students.
Why take on so extra work — doesn’t it add stress to their lives?
All of them are worried about meeting the deadlines. “It’s difficult, and we put in long hours, but the end product is worth it,” said Ross, who’s also in Running Start at Lower Columbia College. “It’s good to push ourselves.”
Charity Tevis praised Mr. Sheppard. “He gave us little projects to get us ready to a do a big one, that prepared us really well. And our English teachers helped us with our papers.”
“I’m glad we got to write our papers and correct our mistakes, make them better,” Jorgensen said.
These students like history, and that motivates them, they said.
“We want to learn more about history,” McCarthy said. “If you don’t know your past, how can you grow?” The project “has taught me a lot about using my time wisely. I try to have a clear vision of where I am going ... I just hope that overall it’s a really good experience — that we learn from each other.”
Jan. 28-29, adults from the school community will examine the students’ projects and give them feedback before they fine-tune their entries for the regional leg of the competition, in early March in Vancouver.