Thirty-seven Richfield School District sixth graders recently became Titan researchers alongside University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Polk Library staff members in preparation for their National History Day projects.
The 2017 National History Day (NHD) theme of “Taking a Stand in History” invites students to look across time and geography to find examples of people who took risks and made a change. Students came to campus to conduct primary and secondary research and then transform the information into a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary or website.
The Richfield School District and UW Oshkosh partnership was started 10 years ago by social studies teachers Michael Cirillo and Brian Ardellini. Both teachers were participants in the UW Oshkosh Teaching American History continuing education program. Cirillo initially launched NHD projects with seventh and eighth grade students. Ardellini contacted Joshua Ranger, University archivist and communications librarian at Polk Library, to create a NHD experience for the sixth grade students.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to foster the love of research in students at an early age. It is important they learn about informational literacy, that ability to take sources, understand them and validate them,” Ranger said.
Marisa Finkey, information literacy coordinator at UW Oshkosh, taught the students how to access library catalogs and websites for reference help and log into Badgerlink, an online directory of newspapers and magazines. Steve Katz, education materials center coordinator at Polk, pulled additional reference books and background information from the library’s collections for each student according to their topic. Ted Mulvey, information literacy librarian, and Erin McArther, distance education librarian, were on hand to help students scan and store information on USB drives.
“It is always impressive to me how focused the students are while researching their topics and how grateful they are for this experience,” Finkey said.
UW Oshkosh graduate and current Richfield social studies teacher Heather D’Alessio is proud to be involved with NHD project for the past four years.
“I think it is wonderful that I am able to introduce students to my alma matter and have them utilize these resources. The writing skills, critical thinking and empathy they learn during this project will aid them throughout their schooling,” D’Alessio said.
The students who visited UW Oshkosh to participate in the research project are not just preparing for a test but digesting and understanding the history while presenting it in a creative package.
- Nolan will be creating a documentary about the Persian Gulf War. “I didn’t realize how bad of a war it was until I started researching and seeing the photos from the battles. I wish people would look at history and not go to war. Innocent people are killed and it is getting worse because of the technology within weapons,” Nolan said.
- Delanie was inspired by the first American female astronaut Sally Ride. “ I like her because she showed that women can do the same things as men. Bar graphs from that time show how girl’s interest in science and mathematics increased after Sally took her first trip into space.”
- Hunter and Connor were interested in events of 9-11 and chose to focus their project around Flight 93. They will be creating a presentation board about how the passengers took a stand against the enemy. “Our project is interesting because it teaches us about what happened on the flight. I think that it is pretty amazing that the people on that flight stood up to the enemies and saved a lot of lives that day,” Hunter said.
- Brady and Nico are creating a documentary about Kevin Garnett. “I like that the staff teaches us how to do the research. It is nice to know about how to get the right primary source,” Brady said. “I think this project has taught me that you should always follow your dreams no matter if others doubt you or tell you it is impossible,” Nico said.
- Molly plans on writing a skit about the moment former President George W. Bush had to make a decision to stand up to al-Qaeda after the four coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States. “I am so excited to read this book, I have never seen it before,” Molly said.
The Richfield students will take the new skills and research that UWO staff members helped them gather and begin preparing their projects for Richfield National History Day event. From there, students will be selected to take part in regional contests running in March and possibly move forward to the state competition in April.
“Typically we have four to five sixth grade students advance from our school to the state competition,” D’Alessio said.
Annually, more than 600,000 middle and high school students representing all 50 states who part in National History Day.