By Jonathan Kleppinger
3:22 PM EST, February 20, 2013
Where could you go last week to learn about flamenco, the liberation of a concentration camp and Madonna? East Jessamine Middle School — that’s where.
East Middle hosted its first “I Love History Day” on Valentine’s Day, with 43 students displaying months of research on their chosen history topics that fit the theme of “turning points in history.” The 34 presentations last week will be at a preliminary competition Saturday leading up to the district competition at Eastern Kentucky University’s “History Day,” sponsored by the Kentucky Junior Historical Society.
Students presented on a wide variety of topics and in a wide variety of mediums; some had traditional posters, but others opted to create documentary videos or even do a song-and-dance routine.
Mary Caite Briggs and Ali Claggett teamed up to research flamenco and then present a lively program on the song and dance and its origins in gypsy culture. Adam Settles created a 10-minute film on the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp after World War II — a topic he chose because of a personal connection.
“I know a World War II veteran that goes to my church, and he was in the liberation of Dachau,” Settles said. “I actually did an interview with him and put it in my documentary.”
Most topics had a personal connection to the students, whether it was Ben Shelley and Chris Lasley seeing the 2012 film “Argo” and yearning to know more about the story or soccer-lover William Riekert’s choice of Pele.
“He came from a poverty-stricken neighborhood, and they were so poor that they couldn’t afford a soccer ball, but he overcame that by using a grapefruit as a ball,” Riekert said. “He really kind of worked with what he had.”
The presentations all set up in the school’s media center Feb. 14, with judges scoring students in the morning and students sharing with their classmates and some visitors through the rest of the day. Each presenter had a ready reply for why their topic was a turning point in history.
Ty Hutchens’ research focused on the wide-ranging effects of busing during desegregation; Hannah Sterrett and Addie Wright found out the toll a massive fire took on the city of Chicago in 1871.
“It took 10 years and over $10 million to rebuild the city, so a lot of people spent a lot of that time homeless and out of work, so it was hard on their lives because they couldn’t find food and shelter and a place to live,” Sterrett said.
Debbie Rains, a teacher for gifted and talented students at the school, had a core of her students to start the projects in October but opened it up to the whole school.
“It was a big project to start, and I thought, ‘OK, I’m just going to go into it with a good attitude,’ and the end product was remarkable; I saw kids really grow,” she said.