By Rebecca Kensil, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Although the four students from Oak Middle School who recently participated in a state district competition for National History Day did not move onto the finals, the competition nevertheless was rewarding and inspiring, they all said.
Eighth-grade students Peter Kunz, 13, Vikram Pathalam, 14, Jenny Chen, 14, and Emily Lapomardo, 14, were the first students from Oak Middle to participate in the annual contest, which this year was held at Quabbin Regional High School in March.
The students made posters based on this year's theme “Turning Points in History.” Peter and Vikram's project was about the American Revolutionary War. Emily created a project on Shakespeare's tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” and its connection to the Greek myth “Pyramus and Thisbe.” Jenny presented her project about Apple computers and their effect on the world. The students explained their posters to three judges who assessed the historical quality, relation to theme, clarity of presentation, and rules compliance.
The students created their works under the guidance of social studies teacher David Ahlin, who first introduced the project to them in early January.? The four students felt the deadline pressure as the competition neared, he said.
“They were working on a pretty tight schedule. I really commend these guys for doing this,” he added.
In addition to the time crunch, the students noted they were unaware the competition would be so tough, adding that their projects in the classroom would be a grade “four,” which is an A. At the competition, however, they saw poster boards twice as tall as theirs and some that were made out of solid wood. In the high school presentations, one project even had lights illuminating a timeline.
Although they did not advance, the students all said they felt that they had benefited from going to the local competition because of what they gained from the experience: time management skills, in-depth knowledge, and the chance to compete.
“It's great for learning your country's history and topics you wouldn's have learned in school,” Vikram said.
“I learned a lot because I was interested in my topic, and it made me feel like I have accomplished a lot,” Jenny agreed. She also remarked on her improved time-management skills, adding, “I gained a lot of experience on how to conduct research and how to split up my time correctly in order to finish the project on time.”
“Now we know what they are looking for. It gives us a lot of advantages,” Peter said.? Emily noted, “I will probably do this on a much bigger scale. Next year I's definitely going all out.”
“I think that this definitively got us off on the right foot, so we can keep on pushing forward,” Vikram said.