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Middle and high school students garner state awards via a look back in time

Cresthill students with teachers

Historical presentations headed to national conference

Pictured (left to right): Cresthill Middle School Language Arts Teacher Sara Morrow, students Katie Rocha and Max Hoffman, Social Studies Teacher Barb Superka.


DENVER – Ten students from Douglas County School District received top honors at the National History Day in Colorado (NHDC) state competition, held Saturday, May 3. Middle and high school students from throughout Colorado gathered at the University of Colorado Denver to present their interpretations of the theme "Rights and Responsibilities."

At the beginning of the school year, NHDC participants selected historical topics and launched thorough research efforts via libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historical sites. After analyzing research results, students selected a method to showcase their findings and present the relationship between their topics and this year's theme. Websites, exhibits, and documentaries were among the presentations found at the state exhibition.

Cresthill and STEM teams advancing to national competition

Cresthill Middle School eighth-graders Katie Rocha and Max Hoffman came in first place in the junior division with their website, a presentation of the events and aftermath of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. They are now qualified to compete with middle-school students from across the United States.

Sara Morrow, who teachers eighth-grade Language Arts at Cresthill, teamed up with eighth-grade Social Studies Teacher Barb Superka to present curriculum in both of their classrooms with a focus on NHDC during the second quarter of this year.

"Katie and Max began this journey as simply two students who were working on a class project together," explained Superka. They chose to work together, as all classes were given the option to work alone on the project or in a group.  In December, we offered students the opportunity to take their project further and that is when Max and Katie decided to create a website on the Ludlow Massacre for the regional competition."

“Seeing kids excited about
learning – that was the best result.”

Kim Hoffman / Parent, Cresthill Middle School

Superka added, "We are most proud of them for following their passion to research a Colorado topic that they felt more people should understand, and that they threw themselves into their research in a relentless pursuit of the truth about labor relations in the early 20th century."

Parent Kim Hoffman is thrilled with the depth of learning this project has brought for her son, Max. "He learned how to do a large project by breaking it down into sections; he learned to work as part of a team. It made learning fun, and he really bonded with his teachers."

"This has been a total collaborative effort," continued Hoffman. "When Max decided to pursue NHDC beyond the required assignment in class, he worked on the website in his computer class as well, with support from Technology Teacher Michael Hall. To prepare for the national competition, he worked with librarian Holly Wagner for a full week, going over the interview process and how to present a website."

The benefits of this experience will continue to be realized as Max enters high school, according to Hoffman. "When Max was considering which courses to take as a freshman, he didn't want to take AP Human Geography (the only AP course offered for freshmen). After winning the state competition, he wants to take the AP class. This has really been a confidence builder."

STEM students with website displayAlso traveling to the national event will be Jeremy Goldman and Cody Sparrow, freshmen at STEM School and Academy. They took the second place honor in the senior division of the website category with their entry, "The Curt Flood Case: Freeing Players from the Reserve Clause."

Sparrow said he and Goldman spent some long hours in the library working on their website, "just cranking through." Those efforts certainly paid off.

"The fact that we're freshman and placed second in the senior division of the competition is great," Sparrow shared. Both boys plan to pursue a career in the field of website development.

Teacher Owen Cegielski, who is the history chair at the STEM School and Academy, coordinated the school's participation in NHDC.

"This is our second year at NHDC," Cegielski said. "Last year, we had 23 students involved, and this year that increased to 31 participants, representing the sixth, eighth, ninth, and 10th grades." Work on projects began last fall, and regional exhibitions were held in February.

"The level of competition really increased from the regional to the state level," added Cegielski, who was confident his students would do well. "This is the first use of history and engineering class that I'm aware of," he said, referring to the atomic bomb exhibit built by eighth grader students Sebastian Del Barco, Nisha Omprakash, and Dillon Thomas. "The kids used a 3D printer to build a fully wired and functional 'flip switch' panel, and included a laser-engraved map on the panel."

The National History Day competition will be held June 15-19 in College Park, Maryland.

Special awards bring additional recognition to DCSD students

Rocky Heights Middle School and STEM School students received four of the 14 special category awards given at the state NHDC conference.

Best Project on the Southern Colorado Mine Wars and the Ludlow Massacre

Megan Baer, Megan Criley, Keelyn Osoba - 8th grade

Rocky Heights Middle School

Rockefeller's Nightmare; The Ludlow Massacre

Molly Brown Activism Award

Emi Short - 8th grade

Rocky Heights Middle School

Sojourner Truth

Best Use of Library of Congress Sources (Junior Class)

Sebastian Del Barco, Nisha Omprakash, Dillon Thomas - 8th grade

STEM School and Academy

The Atomic Bomb: A Lasting Fission in the Scientific Community

Most Creative Exhibit (Senior Class)

Brittney Kling - 9th grade

STEM School and Academy

The Ludlow Massacre: Not Just About Labor Rights

More than 700 students presented 414 projects in this year's state NHDC event, which was the culmination of 12 regional events throughout Colorado.  NHDC is an academic program at the University of Colorado Denver, and an affiliate of National History Day, which annually challenges 700,000 students and 40,000 teachers throughout the United States.

Brittney Kling's Ludlow Massacre exhibitMiner's tent exhibit about Colorado's Ludlow Massacre
Winner - State Competition: Most Creative Exhibit
2nd place - Denver Metro Regionals
STEM students' Atomic Bomb exhibitPlexi-glass exhibit about the Atomic Bomb, with working flip switch control panel, laser engraved title, map of Japan and thesis statement, and book shelf featuring Library of Congress primary sources
Winner - State Competition:Best Use of Library of Congress Sources
3rd place - Denver Metro Regionals
May 28, 2014 | By SCPaulsen | Category: Cresthill Middle School, Rocky Heights Middle School, STEM School Highlands Ranch, High School Education, Middle School Education

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