Some of the most important chapters in history were presented in various ways, as students welcomed parents and friends to the National History Day event on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Andrew Jackson.

Ruby Bridges.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

These were just a few of the historic figures whose stories were shared by budding historians at Hannibal Middle School.

Some of the most important chapters in history were presented in various ways, as students welcomed parents and friends to the National History Day event on Thursday, Feb. 16. As the lights dimmed in Tim Schieferdecker’s classroom, the crowd of family and friends prepared to see documentaries on a variety of subjects. Exhibits lined the classroom and filled tables in the hall. The students smiled as they shared a slew of discoveries along a journey that will continue with future National History Day competitions on regional, state and national levels.

The documentaries included Parker Terrill’s project about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Elaina Dyke’s presentation about Clarence Earl Gideon and Hugh Sankpill’s project about Andrew Jackson. Each student used various sources to present their projects and meld narrative, photographs and music to create their final productions.

Sankpill shared details about Jackson’s tough childhood, losing all of his immediate relatives by the age of 16. Sankpill said Jackson made an impact for many Americans as President, particularly in the South and the West.

“I said he stood up for the American people by standing up to the banks,” he said.

Sankpill’s friend since they were three years old, Lyla Graham, played piano for the documentary. She said she looked forward to surprising her classmates, noting “my dad loves that song.”

“I thought it was amazing and an honor to do that,” Graham said.

Sankpill’s mother Beth said that her son worked hard on the project, and the benefits for both students were clear that evening.

“It was a great learning opportunity for them,” Sankpill said. “I think they’re really proud of the outcome.”

Schieferdecker said that this type of research enriched each student in many ways.

“Project-based learning includes so many disciplines, from communication skills to analysis of sources to construction and organization skills.”

Terrill’s presentation was ideal for him because Bonhoeffer “followed God and stood for what’s right,” said his mother Rhiannon Terrill.

“I was really proud of him, that he did 100 percent of his project all by himself,” she said.

Sixth grader Elaina Dyke said her mother Amy inspired her to research Clarence Earl Gideon’s life. She said she found it interesting that Gideon was born and died in Hannibal. And his impact on the U.S. legal system — where defendants can have an attorney appointed for them if they do not have the means — resonates today.

“It turned into this whole thing that changed legal history,” Dyke said. Amy Dyke enjoyed watching the finished production with Elaina’s father Danny Dyke.

“It was very, very interesting,” Amy Dyke said. “She did a great job. I’m very proud of her.”

As Schieferdecker discussed Kendel Locke’s and Brooklyn Haye’s exhibit about public school integration, he mentioned that the students were free to either expand their scope of research or zero in on a “more compact thesis.” Locke recalled when the pieces of the project fell into place.

“I think it was when we finally got our Hannibal timeline done,” she said. “It just really came together.”

Locke said Haye’s grandmother went to Central High School in Arkansas, the famous site of the “Little Rock Nine” — students who made history during the Civil Right Movement. Her yearbook will also be part of the exhibit.

Linnea Brown focused her exhibit on one of those students, six-year-old Ruby Bridges. During her research, Brown discovered that Bridges said, “I didn’t really think I was making a difference. I was just going to school.”

But Bridges and her eight fellow students were part of a pivotal part of the nation’s history.

“She made a difference without even knowing it,” Brown said.

Ashley Utter focused her documentary on how members of the LGBT community were treated in the military, particularly during World War I and World War II. She found that psychologists came in to determine a soldier’s sexuality, based physical appearance and small talk during brief interviews. Utter said she enjoyed sharing how this situation has changed.

“No matter who you love, it doesn’t show who you are,” she said. “Who you are shows who you are, not who you want to be with.”

Best friends Nathan Young and Caden White dedicated their documentary “Scars Never Heal” to soldiers who fought in the Korean War. The friends raised $300 from local businesses to help with production. White worked on script writing and Young took on video editing. Young said they interviewed Albert Utley in Palmyra; White said meeting “people who served our country” was his favorite part of the process.

Ellie Locke also worked in a team, with her younger sister Katie. The pair researched Susan B. Anthony’s efforts for women’s rights. They were both surprised to learn that Anthony was arrested for illegally voting in 1872.

“Susan B. Anthony, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was one of her best friends, started out five foundations for activism,” Ellie Locke said. Her sister quickly chimed in with her favorite discovery.

“I think it was that she worked, even though she got denied a lot of places,” Katie Locke said. “She wouldn’t give up.”

Several students planned to put finishing touches on their projects in anticipation of the upcoming regional contest, beginning Wednesday, March 1, at Truman State University. From there, winners will advance to the state contest Saturday, April 29, at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Schieferdecker said he enjoyed each of the projects, pointing out that he learns something new each year.

“I’m really blessed with that,” he said.

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