LYNDON - History may not seem like the most interesting subject in school, but for some local sixth graders a big project is transforming them into historians.
Students at Lyndon Town School are gearing up to present their projects in Montpellier at State History Day. Although the projects must focus around this year's theme, "a historical figure who demonstrated taking a stand in society," 6th-grade humanities teacher Tyler Willis says each project is unique.
“Students get to pick the topic… so they can study [what they are passionate about] and can learn from that. They can use the same kind of skill sets that a historian does on any topic with a passion that they have… It’s great for students to take that topic and their passion and turn it into what a historian does,” explained Willis. “As a teacher to see your subject come to life in some way and see your students take pride in that, that's an accomplishment no matter what age I think you have to cherish.”
This year, a passion for sports drove a group of three students to focus their project on Babe Didrikson, a very successful female athlete who brought a great deal of change to sports in the 20th century.
“We really wanted to do someone who wasn’t well known. She was really not known to us. She was the first woman to play sports with a man and was very good. She stood up for woman’s rights in history,” said 6th grader Ashton Gould.
For one of Ashton's partners, Kaylee McCaffrey, Didrikson is also someone who inspires her, “we wanted to do an athlete and she seemed interesting.... She was the first woman to play in many sports with men and that caught our eye.... She plays many of the sports that I play.”
According to Willis, Ashton and Kaylee, are two of many students who have become inspired by the project. Some students have devoted a large amount of time preparing for the project, much of the time not in the classroom.
“The preparation can be year round for some. They comeback from the competition and the next thing they think is I know what I'm going to do next year. In class we devote a couple of months to developing topics, conducting research like historians, and writing and creating projects. We devote time here at school but there is also a ton of preparation on the students end that goes into these projects,” Willis explained. “It's just so cool to see history, something that the kids don’t usually think of as a fun subject, to come in and really take take pride in and be passionate about.”
Last year, 32 students attended the event, making Lyndon Town School, the school with the largest number of students attendees in the state. This year the school hopes to double the amount of students who attend. One of the students from last year's competition made it to nationals, and Willis thinks this may motivate more students to go.
"There is definitely more engagement... they see that tangible reward of being able to go and represent Vermont and Lyndonville in Washington DC. That totally motivates students to go on and try and put in that little extra effort.... They want a shot at it.”
Ashton and Kaylee want their shot at this year's competition and are confident that their project has what it takes to win.
"I really want to win. I think we can do that because we have a really good project... We have a lot of evidence and pictures that go along with it. I really hope we have enough to move on... The more you have the more likely you are to move on."
The sixth graders at Lyndon Town School will show their projects at the event on April 8th.