“She was kind of like the Rosa Parks of our county,” said Madison Central High School (MCHS) teacher Kevin Presnell.
His student, Zakia Holland, is researching the 1960s’ civil rights activist for a documentary she will produce and enter into a National History Day (NHD) contest at the school. Later this spring, top entries will advance to a regional competition, which the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) coordinates.
NHD participants conduct original research in primary sources and present their findings in one of several formats: research paper, documentary, website, exhibit or performance. Except for the paper, they can work individually or in groups. Top entries at the regional level advance to state competition. KHS takes about 50 students to the national contest in College Park, Maryland, each year.
NHD “fits into” his and co-teacher Susan Cinta’s focus on project-based learning, Presnell said.
Presnell and Cinta brought their combined English/social studies class to KHS’s Martin F. Schmidt Research Library Jan. 27 to investigate their topics. Last week, they checked out the resources at Eastern Kentucky University—which is just what NHD and KHS advocate.
“We always like to encourage NHD participants to visit a library and archives at least once during their research just to get that extra level of understanding,” said Cheryl Caskey, NHD coordinator for KHS. “Sometimes being able to touch and see a source that was actually written or used by their ‘person’ really changes their understanding of the topic. Plus, it might be the first time they have ever touched a primary source.”
This year’s NHD theme is “Taking a Stand in History,” and before the Madison County students are finished with their projects, they will know how some people from their county took a stand.
“They are only allowed to look at local history … at someone from our county,” Presnell explained. Some of the people they are researching, like Cassius Clay, are well known in the county. Others, like Huguely, and former slave Moses Estill, are not.
“These students are discovering one of the great aspects of NHD, becoming the ‘expert’ about their topic,” Caskey said. “They’re already teaching their teachers about their community’s history and will be able to introduce others to some of these unknown historical figures, as well.”
As part of their school contest, the students will present their projects to their principal, school superintendent, local historians and the local historical society, Presnell said.