Award-winning students bring 'history alive'

April 12, 2009|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,john-john.williams@baltsun.com

A year ago, Beth Singleton celebrated the accomplishment of two students being honored for outstanding project for the state at the National History Day competition. This year, her top student placed third in the fifth annual Howard County History Day competition.

The gifted and talented resource teacher at Murray Hill Middle School has noticed an improvement in the caliber of participants at the annual countywide competition, held last month at Reservoir High School.

"Everyone had really elevated the work that they had done," Singleton said. "We were happy to have some students in the top."

This year, 189 projects were submitted by 268 students from 17 middle and seven high schools.

"The level of their research has definitely increased over the time I've been involved," Singleton said. "Teachers are seeing it as valuable and are making time for it in the curriculum."

The event is open to students in grades six to 12. Students compete in five categories: exhibit, performance, multimedia documentary, research paper and Web site.

The top two winners in each category and division at the county contest advance to the state contest, which will be held April 25 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The theme this year was "The Individual in History." Some winning projects in Howard explored historical figures such as Dr. Charles Drew, Susan B. Anthony, John Lennon and Clara Barton.

"This really encourages and asks students to go far beyond what they can read in a book," said Debbie Blum, central office resource teacher for the gifted and talented education program. "They can make original meaning from what they are studying. They are creating something new and not just looking at what has already been created. It really makes history very real to the students on a very personal level."

In addition to the student awards at the countywide competition, Margaret O'Connell, a teacher at Mayfield Woods Middle School, was named Howard County History Day Teacher of the Year.

Blum has also noticed higher quality work in recent years.

"Students are engaging in in-depth research," she said. "As part of that research they are using more and more interviews with people who are integral parts of history."

Blum noted how students are using primary sources and mentioned that one student interviewed 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

"They are interviewing people who made history," she said. "They are bringing history alive in the research that they are doing."

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