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National History Day 2007 Finals

Team Wisconsin Takes on Washington D.C.

NHD 2007 Finals
Representative Obey
met with a group
of national finalists from his district.

During the contest, our national finalists have had many opportunities to share their research with historians, archivists and professors. Today, many members of Team Wisconsin took their stories into Washington D.C. to share their accomplishments with their elected representatives.

Students from Representative Obey's district had a chance to discuss history and politics as the representative took a break in his busy schedule. In the afternoon, parents, students and teachers gathered at Senator Kohl's office, where they were able to learn more about his job and tell them about National History Day.

With presentations over, the students and teachers have been spending much of their time getting to know one another. While we are all excited to see what will happen at tomorrow's awards ceremony, there is also disbelief that our time here is almost over.

Check back soon to see how this exciting adventure will end!

Sarah and Eric

Posted at 10:00 AM

Lynn Zabel, Lancaster

NHD 2007 Finals
Lynn Zabel during her
senior individual performance
about Ellis Island.

I'm Lynn Zabel and I am from Lancaster, WI. I am doing an individual performance on Ellis Island. This year I have enjoyed meeting all of the great people. I have made numerous friends here that I hope will last for years after I do this. Today we preformed our presentations and I watched many others. I was truly in awe on the quality of other projects. I didn't get into the final round, but I really am cool with that. I learned a lot and had a great time from the beginning to end. This program is one of the coolest things I have ever experienced and it was full of caring people and helpful guides.

I enjoyed this trip to Washington D.C. so much and I am grateful for everyone who had helped me get here. So far I have gotten to see Mt. Vernon, the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court building, and the Capitol. Tomorrow I plan to go to Arlington National Cemetery, and see the outside of the White House. My favorite experiences here have been the scavenger hunt, and hearing Ken Burns and Richard Dreyfus. All of these experiences will truly last a lifetime and I am grateful for every minute and everyone who has helped me get here.

Posted at 10:01 AM

Kelly Driscoll, Milwaukee

NHD 2007 Finals
Kelly Driscoll, her mom,
and the Zabel Family
pose for a picture
following Kelly's performance.

Hey, I'm Kelly from Milwaukee. I am a senior individual performance student and my subject was Anne Boleyn.

Today I got to perform for the judges. It went really well, I think that the judges really liked my performance and the interview was a lot of fun because I've been learning and talking about Anne Boleyn for three years. I got to see a lot of great projects, very thoughtful and thought provoking pieces.

My time here in Maryland and D.C. has been great, I was able to see the Spy and Holocaust museums and have gotten to hear many great speakers. Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker, spoke at the opening ceremony. He is quite an eloquent speaker and it was a joy to listen to him talk about his historical documentaries. I was also able to listen to a Warsaw ghetto resistance fighter and have his book signed.

I also was able to get a chance to go to a speech by the actor Richard Dreyfus. His speech was about the fact that civics is not taught in schools today. The skill of running our country is not taught in our schools and people are loosing sight of the American ideals. Some felt offended at some of the thoughts that Richard Dreyfus was trying to convey. He talked a lot about politics, but I feel that it is important to listen to someone and learn from them even if you don't agree with them. It is important to collect information from all sides and then make a decision about what you believe in.

The short time I've spent here has given me so many opportunities and experiences that I'll never forget.

Posted at 10:02 AM

Amanda Opper and Olivia Batien, Schofield

NHD 2007 Finals
National finalists from Schofield
take in the view of The Mall
from Representative Obey's
Capital balcony.

Our names are Amanda and Olivia and our National History Day project was on Bessie Coleman. Bessie Coleman was the first licensed African American pilot. We decided to do an exhibit board on Bessie Coleman because she was a great inspiration to us and should be to many other people. She was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. When she was a very young child, her and her family moved to Waxahachie, Texas and soon after in 1901, her father moved to Oklahoma, which was Indian territory, because he was half Cherokee. Her mother then had to fend for herself with 13 children. Bessie grew up very fast in her setting becoming the main figurehead when her mother was at work. As years past, she moved to Chicago to live with her brother and became acquainted with Robert Abbott, the publisher and editor of the Chicago defender. With money from family and friends, including from Robert Abbott, Bessie flew to France to learn how to fly and get her pilot's licenses. When she returned to America, many people supported what Bessie did, but there were, of course, people who did not approve. After years of flying and having one big crash, Bessie was taking a test flight with a co-pilot when something went wrong and Bessie fell out of the plane hundreds of feet in the air.

Going to Washington D.C. was one of the best experiences that we have had. We have met many new people from around the nation and became much closer friends with people from our own school, including a couple of our teachers. We also got to meet Representative Obey which was a great experience. You would think that someone that important would be too busy, but he was very personable and told many stories of his younger years about how he became a politician. Obey's office spoiled us when we went to the Capital as they took us out onto the Capital building balcony, which not many people get to do. We also got to see the floor of the House of Congress where many presidents have presented their State of the Union addresses. This whole adventure was amazing, from competing to going to museums to meeting elected officials.

With lots of love,
Amanda and Olivia

Posted at 10:03 AM

Kathleen Gehrke, Neillsville

NHD 2007 Finals
Katie Thill, Kathleen Gehrke,
and Kelsey Stanga
following their Hitler Youth
presentation at the Smithsonian.

Greetings from D.C. I am an 8th grade Science/Soc. St. teacher from Neillsville. My name is Mrs. Gehrke. I have been working with NHD for three years in my classroom. This is my first trip to D.C and the Finals. It has been a great experience. Seeing all of the outstanding projects from around the country, meeting people, and realizing that these kids are the best of the best has been great.

Today my students presented their documentary at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Also at the museum were three exhibit entries, four performances, and eight other documentaries. Students submitted applications about a month ago and only 22 were selected to present at one of six locations. Those projects selected for the Museum of Health and Medicine will have their projects on display until October 2007! It was a great honor to be selected and the museum staff treated the students extremely well. I recommend to any future students that they apply for this great experience.

Afterwards we meet up with Senator Kohl and the girls presented him with a copy of their process paper and documentary. His office had contacted them and wanted to learn more about it and National History Day when they found out that we were going to be in D.C.

I feel that the students learned many things about themselves as well about history and research. I think the most important thing they have learned is that working on a project like this should be for the love of the subject and wanting to learn and understand the past for themselves. That taking pride in their work and creating a good project is a reward in itself.

Posted at 10:04 AM

Kelsey Stanga and Katie Thill, Neillsville

NHD 2007 Finals
Kelsey Stanga and Katie Thill
present their documentary
on Hitler Youth.

Hi, our names are Kelsey Stanga and Katie Thill. Today we got to take and present our documentary, about the Hitler Youth, at the Smithsonian. It was pretty fun and we were excited to be there. We watched a few other documentaries before we played ours and I thought they were very good. We also saw a few exhibits. Our documentary took about 10 minutes and we were asked questions afterward. There were some spectators that came in from outside, but it was mostly people from National History Day. After we presented it we got to take a look at some famous paintings in the Art and Portrait Gallery. Later we went and watched a performance in the museum on women's baseball and went to Union Station to take the night tour of some of the monuments like the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial. We met Senator Kohl and got our picture taken with him.

Posted at 10:05 AM

Denise Shedivy, La Crosse

NHD 2007 Finals
Denise Shedivy conquers the Metro
on her first try.

Hello my name is Denise Shedivy and my daughter, Elise, and I are both truly enjoying our first trip to NHD! It's been exciting meeting other finalists from all over Wisconsin, as well as the United States. The students have enjoyed trading buttons and discussing similar interests. As a parent and also as a teacher, I have found National History Day to be an outstanding experience for the students. It is a well-run competition which has both an educational and recreational emphasis. When we first arrived and entered the exhibit hall our group was intimidated by the quality of exhibits, however we overcame our nerves and know we earned our way here too!

I have to admit I was apprehensive to spend the week in the dorms but I can't image my daughter having the experience she has had if she would have stayed off campus. While we were here we've meet other finalists, other parents and teachers; and we've formed many new friendships. We've learned how to make our way around the metro system and have visited all the sites in Washington, DC as well as here on the University of Maryland campus. It's been a wonderful week.

Posted at 10:06 AM

Patricia Solfest, Altoona

NHD 2007 Finals
Teachers Patricia Solfest
and Ray Hilfiker
pose for a photo with Senator Kohl

Hi, my name is Patricia Solfest and I am from Altoona Middle School. I am a language arts teacher who worked with students on National History Day projects to teach research skills. It worked out really well because the ways students show what they've learned – through exhibits, performances, papers, and documentaries - allowed for real audiences and so are very motivating for the kids to do.

My students did a group performance project on the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. The kids each took one role and portrayed it. We had the mayor, a nurse, a soldier, and an ordinary citizen, as well as a person who plays the role of a narrator. They tried to show how the various people interacted and some of the controversies surrounding the recovery efforts.

I think the most challenging part of NHD was just getting a sense of the standards of excellence for each of the categories. This was our first year competing and even though we read through all of the rules and looked at samples, the only way to really understand the process is to go through it once. I was part of a graduate program called "Learning by Doing" and I think NHD really exemplifies that concept. At each level – school, regional, state, and national – the students learned more and more about how to develop excellent projects by seeing how the other students created and performed theirs. I would encourage other teachers just to jump in with both feet. The water's fine and your students will learn more than you can imagine.

Posted at 10:07 AM

Enjoying the University of Maryland Campus

NHD 2007 Finals
The junior group performance
from Altoona
rubs Testudo for good luck.

Posted at 10:15 AM

Nate Smith, Madison

NHD 2007 Finals
Ken Burns was an exciting opening
ceremony speaker for the 2007
contest. Nate Smith, junior group documentary
student got a chance to meet him personally!

Posted at 10:18 AM

Touring D.C.

NHD 2007 Finals
Team Wisconsin has seen sites across
Washington D.C.

Posted at 10:19 AM
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