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Fairmont Area students gear up for History Day

FAIRMONT — This year will mark the third time around for seventh- and eighth-grade students at Fairmont Jr./Sr. High School to participate in National History Day in Minnesota.

National History Day is a non-profit organization that operates an annual project-based contest for students around the world in grades 6-12. This year’s theme is “Breaking Barriers in History.” The event is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Teachers Claire Theobald and Andrew Walden discussed what kinds of projects their students are working on, as well as how they go about it.

“The kids have all decided they can either work individually or in a group of up to four, and then they can choose to present their work through five different formats,” Theobald said. “They can write a research paper, create a website or exhibit, or do a performance or documentary.

“This year, we have 110 exhibits that are going to be displayed from 4:30 to 8:30 on [Feb. 24] in the commons area, with a snow day backup on March 5. We’ll have a list up of all the students and where their exhibit boards are, and students are encouraged to stay the whole time, knowing that there will be people from the general public who want to talk to them about their projects.”

Theobald said students will cover a wide range of topics, and noted they all seem to be passionate about their work.

“We have things on Jackie Robinson, one on the invention of instant replay, one on photojournalism, the Boston Tea Party, the WNBA, and we have a lot of social movements and LGBTQ stuff.”

Students also are learning how to dress well and conduct in-depth interviews.

“We’ve got a total of 301 students participating across the seventh and eighth grade,” she noted. “At this point, we’ve grown enough that our event is about the same size as the Mankato regional event, which is huge.

“To see how much more access that young people have to a lot of these individuals than we do as adults is just amazing. I think people don’t understand the degree of knowledge that seventh- and eighth-grade students have; they don’t realize what their capable of and I think they’re capable of so much.”

Both Theobald and Walden say they appreciate the community involvement in the event.

“We’ve got about 44 to 45 judges lined up from throughout the community to come and judge for us,” Theobald said. “There’s that real-life component as well, knowing that there are people in the outside world coming to see their project gives them that extra connection and relevance.”

“It’s more than just a school project for your teacher,” Walden said. “It’s one that others in can see in the community. The key is for them to find a topic that they enjoy and then they really take off.

“The kids have a lot of pride in this,” he continued. “They’re working hard and value the process. They may not see it now, this is definitely a good opportunity for kids to learn these skills that are applicable as they get older.”

Theobald and Walden emphasized that the public is invited to come see the students’ exhibits from 4:30-8:30 Feb. 24 in the Fairmont High School commons.

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