Three hundred senior high students from metro schools attended regional History Day competition at Augsburg last week.
History Day each year involves more than 30,000 junior and senior high students across Minnesota. Students select a topic to research around a theme and feel history coming alive for them as they develop poster displays, performances, documentary films, websites, or research papers for competition. They seek to advance through regional and state levels for a chance to travel to national History Day in June.
This year’s theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences,” and projects presented at Augsburg included diplomatic crises; local issues, including a Minneapolis teacher’s strike and the consequences on the Rondo neighborhood during construction of I-94; and social debates, including women’s rights and Indian casino gambling.
Augsburg senior Jill Hengstler has an internship for History Day at the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). Last fall she visited a middle school in Farmington, among others, and helped sixth- and seventh-graders get started on their projects, using her skills as a historian to teach them how to begin their research and write a thesis. “It’s so great to see kids taking an interest,” she says, “and fun for me to see the students connect and learn about history through the program.”
While teaching isn’t Hengstler’s top interest, working with kids is what she loves. The internship at MNHS has been ideal, and she may consider working in a museum or historical society.
Junior Lily Morris is co-president of Augsburg’s Historical Society. She and other society members served as judges, guides, and assistants to the History Day staff during the event. She agrees with Hengstler that History Day is not only fun for them but a great way to see options for using history.
Ali Kappes, a 2007 history graduate, is the metro coordinator of History Day at MNHS. She also began her career as a History Day intern and joined the MNHS staff after graduating. Her work begins each fall as she contacts schools to arrange teacher workshops, visits schools to help students with their project planning, and starts coordination of the three regional senior-high competitions.
“Exposure to the History Day program helps students understand the importance of analytical and research skills,” Kappes says. At MNHS, she sees how the analytical skills she learned prove useful in her everyday work. “The program helps show what can be done with a history major.”
History Day, which is sponsored by both MNHS and the University of Minnesota Department of History, has one additional Auggie connection. History professor Michael Lansing, while in graduate studies at the University of Minnesota, served as the graduate assistant for Minnesota History Day.