TASD teams advance to PA State History Day competition

Four Tyrone Area High School freshmen used a city far away and a historical figure rarely discussed to win first place in the senior group exhibition category at a recent National History Day regional competition at Juniata College.
Amy Lewis, Elena Myers, Karly Fowler and Dustin Elder researched and designed a museum exhibit that focused on activist Jane Jacobs and her fight in New York City to prevent urban renewal and highway projects from passing through her Greenwich Village neighborhood. The project fit into this year’s theme of “Taking a Stand in History: People, Places, Events.”
The victory qualified the group for the Pennsylvania State History Day competition at Penn State University on May 10 – 11.
They will be joined by another Tyrone group that likewise made it to the state competition in eighth graders Niko Lambert, Aleah Hoy, Katie Spangler and Chantelle Barndt, who took third place in the junior group exhibit category with their display entitled “Jacob Riis: Taking a Stand Against Poverty.”
In all, four of the six group exhibits Tyrone entered in the junior and senior divisions made it to the final round of competition, from among more than 25 entrants in each category. There were a total of 26 entrants in the senior group exhibit category, and the Tyrone team was one of only three groups of freshmen entered.
“Each year, our school participates with the goal of getting as many teams as possible to the state competition, and over the last six years our students have been very successful in doing that,” said Kerry Naylor, the Tyrone Area Middle and High School gifted enrichment teacher. “But each year is special because you can see the students’ reactions at the awards assembly when they realize their effort and research paid off. This year is no exception. The ninth grade group had their sights set on going to states since they began competing here as seventh graders, but they had come up short each time, so I was really happy to see them not just qualify but win.”
Lewis, Myers, Fowler and Elder become the fifth group from Tyrone to win first place in their division at Juniata’s regional National History Day competition, and the first to do so since 2004. With the addition of Lambert, Hoy, Spangler and Barndt, Tyrone has now advanced 16 groups to the Pennsylvania State History Day competition since 2001.
“The success we have enjoyed at this contest says a lot about the kids competing now and their work ethic, but it also says a lot about the students of years past who set a standard that students now are trying to live up to,” Naylor said.
The winning entrant told the story of Jacobs, a community activist and organizer in the early 1960s who stood up to the city of New York and builder Robert Moses when they attempted to drive a Lower Manhattan Expressway through the heart of her Greenwich Village community. In conducting their research, the students spent two-and-a-half months researching Jacobs, the planning of New York City, and slum clearance. Then, from February through March they wrote and designed their exhibit.
The eighth grade entrant followed a similar pattern when researching Riis and his stand against the tenements in Lower East Side New York through his book How the Other Half Lives in the 1890s.
According to Naylor, the process of research, writing and design was one that involved more than just he and the students.
“There were many members of the faculty who donated their time and expertise to help the students achieve their success,” he said. “Art teacher Eric Feather literally volunteered his planning period every day to help the students design their projects, Becky Schreckengost made sure they always had ample help from the computer and technology end of it, and as always librarian Ken Grady was an invaluable tool in locating resources. This truly is a team effort every year.”
Naylor’s students have been competing in National History Day since 2000. It is a contest conducted across the United States that was started in 1972 by Cleveland educator Dr. David Van Tassell to promote the study of history in elementary and secondary schools. Eight years later it had grown into a national program.
Each year, the National History Day committee releases a theme for students to base their research around. They then design a project to compete in one of four categories: research paper, exhibit, play or documentary.
Two million teachers, students and volunteers from across the country participate annually in History Day, which culminates in a national competition at the University of Maryland in June.