When it comes to history, 'there's great stuff here'

Each year, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay opens its doors to dozens upon dozens of young researchers as they prepare for the National History Day Contest.

Students conduct research in the David A. Cofrin Library on campus, using resources in the University Archives and Special Collections areas. Many also meet and interview with professors, who can provide expert advice on a wide range of topics.

“UWGB, as a resource, is fantastic,” said John VanRossum, a social studies teacher at Freedom Middle School. The librarians “go beyond belief when it comes to helping the kids.”

School districts in 14 Northeastern Wisconsin counties (Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, Shawano, Door, Kewaunee, Brown, Outagamie, Winnebago, Calumet, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac) participate in the regional National History Day Contest held on the UW-Green Bay campus each April.

By then, students will have researched and explained the histories of everything from George Washington Carver’s invention of peanut butter, to Harry Houdini’s final act, to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s accusations of communism.

The 2008 regional contest had 330 entries. This year is expected to be bigger than ever. The theme is “Individual in History: Action and Legacy.”

The first Northeastern Wisconsin competition was organized at UW-Green Bay in 2003, and the regional contest quickly grew to become the largest in the state.

Winners at the regional contest advance to a state competition in May. Finalists from the state competition can move on to the National History Day Contest in Washington D.C. in June.

For more see: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/teachers/historyday/dates_contacts.asp


(Narrated text on screen)

When National History Day rolls around each year, students in Northeastern Wisconsin open their minds to learning. This year, they’ll study historical figures from Edison to Elvis, and Harry Houdini to Harry Truman.

Since 2003 UW-Green Bay has opened its doors to National History Day, hosting a regional competition, and letting the students learn from the resources held inside University walls.

Deb Anderson
Coordinator, University Archives/Special Collections

They’re coming to do research projects based on subjects that they’ve chosen pertaining to history in some way. So, they’re here today to help work on their National History Day project. Some of them are using original letters and diaries. Others are using book materials, or electronic materials that we have here at UWGB.

The materials that we have let them use original documents, original diaries, original letters and so on. The internet is often only as good as the people posting the materials on the internet. So it’s not really a scholarly resource. It’s not necessarily a primary source or one-of-a-kind type of thing. It’s very short, sometimes very summary type of information.

The materials we have at our library are not readily available at public libraries or school libraries.

John VanRossum
Social Studies teacher, Freedom Middle School

UWGB, as a resource, is fantastic. Obviously, it’s much larger than the Freedom Middle School library can provide. But also the resources that we have here is the librarians and the archivists that can give us different ideas and directions in which we can go with our research, and, again, other opinions that I may not think of as a teacher to help the kids.

I think Deb and Jean and the other librarians, they go beyond belief when it comes to helping the kids. The kids I didn’t think realized how helpful this would be. I was talking to another teacher today; I wish we had this when we were in school, with the amount of time the kids save by getting the help they get here, it’s phenomenal.

8th grade, Freedom Middle School

There’s letters and books and the employees and teachers here can help you. They already had a list of places where you can look, like a list of books and computer web sites. And you can find videos.

Deb Anderson
National History Day, it’s not just a day, it’s an experience. Basically, it’s an academic competition for students in 6th through 12th grade and they have to use original materials. But they can choose any topic that they want within the theme for the year. And then they present their research on a contest day in categories of exhibits, or documentaries, web sites, research papers and performances. The contest is held here at UWGB for this region, and I think this is our seventh year of doing it.

We want the students to come in because we believe it’s important to connect history to make it real. So if you sit in a classroom and you read a book about the Civil War, but you come here and you actually read a diary that the soldier carried with them, it makes a different kind of connection. I think it makes, in that case, the Civil War more real. So we open up the doors because we believe we have a treasure trove of materials and we want people to be able to use them. It doesn’t matter what age you are.

If your topic is Dale Earnhardt, if your topic is Wild Bill Hickok, if your topic is Houdini or whatever it is, whatever you’re interested in, come in, use the materials and connect and learn about history in hopefully a fun and exciting way.

I always say, the door’s open. Come in, use the archives. There’s great stuff here.


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