National History Day: Research Writing and Performance

February 29, 2016

For the third consecutive year, English 2 Honors students have written their research papers according to the guidelines of the National History Day project “Senior Historical Papers.”  The theme of this year’s national contest is “Explore – Encounter – Exchange,” and this year’s papers run the gamut from “The Race to the North Pole” to “Leonardo da Vinci: Exploring and Encountering the Mind of a Creative Genius.”  New this year for LHS are two performance groups:  John Mark Shields and Gabby Mills will perform “When Stars Collide: the Encounters of Martha Graham and Aaron Copeland.”  Their performance will show how the two artists collaborated on “Appalachian Spring.”  The second performance group of Alba Muniz, Trevor McKeone, Rachel Biehl and Bianca Hernandez will cover the dark encounters of Edgar Allan Poe, especially through his structure of the short story.

Students are held to strict standards in each division.  Senior division research writers must write a paper of between 1,500 to 2,500 words in one of two styles, MLA or Chicago.  Then they must submit a full annotated bibliography separating their primary and secondary sources.  All submissions were due by Friday, February 26, submitted online and by paper copy.

The last part of the process begins March 9 when all students meet for the district competition in Kearney.  Research papers are read and evaluated by UNK History Department faculty, and students meet with a professor for a ten-minute interview about their topic and the research process.  The performance groups will each have ten minutes for their presentations, and then they will meet with evaluators to discuss their learning through performance and their process papers. 

The day after their papers had been submitted, Ms. Chesley’s English 2 Honors students reflected upon their learning:

Jami White commented, “It teaches you a lot about how to research, and if you actually liked your topic, you learned a lot.”

Tomas Margritz added his two bits:  “I would rather be tortured [than write a research paper].  I would much rather read a good book.” 

Ashtyn Flynn said she “only cried three times,” but part of that might have been because she was actually ill. 

Right before the first draft was due, Tony Stewart was up until 4:00 a.m. writing his paper.  Tony found so much to write about his topic of integrating baseball and breaking the color barrier that he eventually had to shorten his paper by 1,000 words.  He said, “That was painful, after all my work and original writing, because I put a lot of love into it.”

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