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March 9, 2013

History hits stage in Unadilla

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — History will take center stage Saturday for Catskill Region History Day at Unadilla Valley Central School. About 30 students will compete from Unadilla Valley, Cooperstown, Stamford and Cherry Valley-Springfield Central schools.

The contest will begin at 8:50 a.m. with judging and will be open to the public at 11:30 a.m., said

regional coordinator Mary Ann Luciano, director of the Catskill Regional Teacher Center . It’s open to grades six through 12, she said, but mostly middle-schoolers participate.

Students demonstrate their knowledge on a theme by producing exhibits, documentaries, websites or research papers. The latter must be done by an individual, but the other categories accept individual or group work. The Unadilla Valley event is part of the National History Day program. Winners will compete at the state History Day Contest in Cooperstown on April 24, and there’s a national competition about a month later.

About 30 students participate, Luciano said. The theme this year is “turning points in history.”

Participation is down from previous years, but teachers are trying to integrate the program with the state’s common core curriculum, she said. She said she was hoping to schedule a professional development day at the state competition to work on that.

The team from Stamford is new to the competition this year. It’s working with artists from the Roxbury Arts Group.

Stamford eighth-grade history teacher Bonnie Kane said working with RAG as mentors, the school developed a history club with about 40 members in middle and high school. Seven eighth-graders, in three groups, have made exhibits for the contest. This includes the race to the moon and the Battle of Shiloh and Capture of New Orleans during the Civil War.

It helped them discover the “fun” of exploring history while improving their public speaking skills, Kane said.

“It’s awesome to see kids excited about school work,” she said, adding that she hopes interest in the club will grow.

Unadilla Valley middle school social studies teacher Dave Burnsworth said that about 15 eighth-grade students from a class he co-teaches to develop research skills are participating.

He said he’s been involved for about eight years. One group is entering a website on the fall of Rome, while an individual did an exhibit on New York’s role in the Underground Railroad. Other projects include a group exhibit about Jackie Robinson and the color barrier in baseball and an individual video on Title IX and women in sports.

Burnsworth said the program is a great way for students to do hands-on research on subjects in which they have an interest.

“It’s fun to see students be passionate about something historical,” he said.