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Second History Day competition highlights the individual

Date: 1/26/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM The past became more popular with Minnechaug Regional High School's second annual History Day competition, part of National History Day 2009.

Thirty-nine separate projects, from documentaries and research papers to exhibits and Web sites, were on display on Jan. 15 at the high school. Last year, 12 groups participated in the competition.

"I think they're all good projects," Patty Hogan, head of the high school's history department, said. "I can't compare them to last year."

The theme of National History Day 2009 was "The Individual in History." Each group put together a presentation on a single person who greatly influenced an aspect of history, be it politics, pop culture or physics.

Ten groups competed in the documentary category, and the top three winners were "Qin Shi Huangdi" by Anna Young, Gavin Mackie, Lindsay Green and Monica Giordano, "Ronald Reagan" by Maggie Shea, Mia Major and Christina Vachon and "Charles Darwin" by Stephanie Lalonde, Samantha Maldonado and Micah Algie.

The first place winners produced a documentary on Qin Shi Huangdi, who was king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BCE to 221 BCE. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BCE. He ruled until his death in 210 BCE at the age of 50.

Mackie wrote and recorded an original soundtrack for his group's documentary.

Twenty different groups presented exhibits on important historic individuals. Shelby Scott took first place with her exhibit, "Dr. Seuss/Theodore Seuss Geisel," Alyssa Motyl took second with "Elizabeth Blackwell," Kwabena Boaten-Aduse took third for "W.E.B. Dubois" and Samantha Borchers placed fourth for "Helen Keller."

Eight students wrote research papers for this year's competition. "Gandhi" by Megan Wallace won first place; "Joseph Stalin" by Mariana Sayknia won second.

Four groups produced Web sites. The site for John Muir, by Dorothy Rzeznik, took first; the site for Adolf Hitler by Colby Fontaine and Andrew Johnston took second; and the site for Ronald Reagan by Jacob Booth and Bradford Smith took third.

High school principal M. Martin O'Shea served as a judge for the Web site entries.

"The Web sites present a real challenge," he said. "Students have to imagine new ways to present their information. It's different from a paper or a presentation."

Hogan said students were allowed to choose which individuals in history they wished to study for the competition.

Judges for History Day included O'Shea, Steve Castonguay, John Derosia, Dan Hanscom, Constance Shea, Nicole Smith and Christine Wrona.

"It's great to see [History Day] grow," O'Shea said. "I think it will keep attracting more students. It really takes a lot of time and talent."

National History Day is an educational program devoted to improving the teaching and learning of history in American schools. It is touted as a meaningful way for students to study historical issues, ideas, people and events by engaging in historical research.