History Day research projects qualifying for national competition in Washington, D.C. include ones on mankind’s predisposition to violence, the Cherokee Indian “Trail of Tears,” the barring of gender discrimination in education and the debate over logging in the Tongass National Forest.
Six junior high students at Haines School behind the projects will hold a car wash from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday across from the post office to help fund their trip in mid-June. They include eighth-grader Zayla Asquith-Heinz, and seventh-graders Alexandria Chapin, Autumn Gross, Kayley Swinton, Corinna Hill and Jenae Larson.
The theme of the statewide contest this year was “Debate and Diplomacy in History.”
Gross and Swinton teamed up on an exhibit about “Title IX,” the June 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that barred gender discrimination in schools but is best known for ushering in women’s sports.
“Everyone thought that if girls played sports, they’d get tumors on their ankles,” Gross explained. Before Title IX, activities for young women were pretty much limited to horseback riding, square dancing, walking and archery, she said. “That’s probably what we’d be doing now if there was no title nine.”
She and Swinton presented their research inside cardboard “lockers” they created for their exhibit. Opposition to Title IX included fear that men’s athletics would be reduced as a result. “The men weren’t very happy about it,” Gross said.
Gross, who plays basketball, soccer and baseball, said she has an opinion on which way the debate should have gone. “I think it’s cool that women got the right to play.”
Born in 1998, Gross said she hadn’t previously known that women didn’t always have equal opportunity to participate in school sports as men.
Larson, who teamed up with Hill to study the debate over logging in the Tongass National Forest, said that after researching the topic, it’s difficult for her to choose a side.
“I can’t say. They both have their good and bad. There’s too much to know about it, each side and how they feel,” Larson said.
Loggers needed jobs and the trees were needed by others as raw materials, she said. Environmentalists “wanted people to focus on other things like fisheries and tourism because they thought the federal government was spending too much money on (logging),” she said.
Among the things she learned, Larson said, were that the Tongass is the world’s largest temperate rainforest and that of its 17 million acres, five million were logged. The debate over logging in it is still going, she said.
Larson and Hill mounted their research, titled “What’s All the Bark About?,” on tree bark and used poster tubes to create two trees as an exhibit backdrop.
Asquith-Heinz (Why Man is Violent) and Chapin (The Trail of Tears) entered solo projects, arranging their research on websites they created. Projects also could be presented as documentaries, papers or performances.
Junior high social studies teacher Lisa Cardellio said Haines students have been participating in History Day competitions since the mid-1990s, but have yet to win at the national competition. “It gets competitive. Some of the winners start in September getting their entries together.”
Haines students begin their History Day entries in January and work on them during class for five or six weeks. Part of the value of the project is self-directed learning, she said.
“They can pick anything they’re interested in as long as it fits in the theme. It might even include sports or music. A lot of it is finding information on their own and thinking about it,” Cardellio said.
Besides seeing exhibits from around the nation, the trip to Washington includes visits to members of the offices of Alaska’s Congressional representatives and plenty of time to see museums. “They can pretty much choose to do whatever they want. They have a lot of freedom and time to go places.”
The competition pays for students’ room and board. Students must pay their own travel. Besides the car wash, the six students will raffle an iPad II.