Students take assignment to statewide award-winning status

April 28, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD


A documentary that began as a group history project for five Washington County Technical High School students received an award at a statewide history competition last weekend.

The team walked away with the "We The People" American History and Cultural Award at the Maryland History Day competition for a documentary on John Brown, the abolitionist who raided a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in 1859.

The group received a plaque and $100 but will not advance to nationals.

Erin Artz, a sixth-grade Springfield Middle School student, won second place in the historic paper junior division for her essay on Amelia Earhart. She received $25 and will compete at the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland in June.


Maryland History Day is an annual competition where middle school and high school students enter history-themed essays, skits and documentaries. The competition is held on the county, state and national levels.

More than 10,000 high school and middle school students participate in Maryland's History Day each year, said Judy Dobbs of the Maryland Humanities Council, the group that organized the competition.

This year's theme was "Taking a Stand in History: People, Ideas and Events," Dobbs said.

The Technical High School students said there was more to the project than learning how to use primary sources and operating video equipment.

Rossana Larrick, the students' AP history teacher, said there were mixed reactions when she explained the assignment at the beginning of the year.

"When she told us what we'd be doing, we were like, 'We don't want to do this,'" said one of her students, Tim Young, 18, of Boonsboro. "How were we going to pull this off?"

But many months later, the students said they were deeply engaged in the project and were complaining about not having enough time to work on it.

"They became individual historians," Larrick said. "I have never been so proud."

They pored over newspaper clippings and found original copies of Brown's speeches and hotel registries with Brown's alias, "Issac Smith." They even learned that John Wilkes Booth - the man who shot Abraham Lincoln - enlisted in the Army for the sole purpose of witnessing Brown's execution.Only military men were allowed to see his execution months after he raided Harpers Ferry.

Project member Thomas "T.J." Wallech said the most valuable outcome was being able to connect what happened in the past with today's struggles.

"Isn't there still hatred between blacks and whites?" asked T.J., 17, of Hagerstown.

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