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NHD students dive into tragedy and reach the triumph

April 12, 2019

Photo courtesy of Casey Bixby
(left to right) Sophomores Emma Bryant and Casey Bixby showcase their exhibit on the Stanford Prison Experiment. Bixby and Bryant began their research back in the fall.

Diving deeper into history, five students will be competing at the state level contest for National History Day at LaGrange College on April 13. This year’s theme is Triumph and Tragedy.

Participants in National History Day had the option to write a paper, produce an exhibit, create a website, film a documentary or perform. Sophomores, Casey Bixby and Emma Bryant, decided to showcase an exhibit on the Stanford Prison Experiment.

“We wanted to choose a project that you couldn’t pick up a history book and read about, because it’s not in the history books and it’s not widely known, because it was just an experiment. But ultimately that type of psychological torture was used in abrograte, which is huge and widely known, so we wanted to take this event everyone knew about and actually break it down to something no one really knew about and explore why it happened,” Bixby said.

We wanted to choose a project that you couldn’t pick up a history book and read about,”

— Casey Bixby

With the competition coming up, Bryant is excited to showcase their project.

“I’m excited about just showing how much I have learned and how much me and Casey have put into the project, because it wasn’t just something we put together in one day, we worked very hard on it and it shows we worked very hard,” Bryant said.

With the two showcasing an exhibit, Bixby is hoping a few elements will catch the judges’ eyes.

“I believe pictures can speak a thousand words and pictures from the prison experiment of how stadistic the guards became and how much the prisoners rebelled, they spoke to me more than I could ever write,” Bixby said.

Sarah Plemons, sophomore, decided to write a research paper on Elie Wiesel in Auschwitz.

“I feel like writing is easier for me than making a website and I didn’t want to make a board, because I recently made one with science fair, so I knew that if I made a paper then I could do it quick and easy and it’s just something that would be more fun for me,” Plemons said.

With the topic of Triumph and Tragedy, Plemons became interested about the topic.

“I chose that topic, because Auschwitz has always fascinated me, because it was so brutal and they had the highest death rate of any of the camps during World War Two and it’s just interesting to me,” Plemons said.

I believe pictures can speak a thousand words,”

— Casey Bixby

While Plemons does not have to attend the competition because she wrote a research paper, she hopes for results beyond what the county competition judges gave her.

“I’m hoping I get better feedback than I did last time, because I’ve been working on it [paper] a lot more and I just hope that it improves…They [judges] give you rubric and they say the things that you need to work on and in some cases they tell you the things you did well on, so we’re hoping for less bad and more good,” Plemons said.

Another partner project for National History Day is Kyleigh Pritchett, senior, and Matthew Stroup, sophomore. Pritchett and Stroup chose to film a ten minute documentary for their topic on Freddie Mercury, who was diagnosed with AIDS, and had a connection to the story.

“My cousin was the first AIDS patient of Georgia, so when it came to find a person to do it on, Freddie Mercury would be really cool, because he was really criticized for what he dealt with,” Pritchett said.

With multiple ways to create the project, both Pritchett and Stroup decided a documentary was best.

“I’m not the best at writing, not like essays or anything, and for exhibits I was afraid that it would be too much money and a documentary is really fun,” Pritchett said.

Just like the county level competition, the pair will follow the same routine for the state competition.

“We should have to go in and set up a projector on a wall, present it [documentary] and they [judges] will ask us questions and we’ll answer them…I know last time for the county level I was nervous about the questions,” Stroup said.

Dave Mayer, history teacher, required his honors world history classes to participate in National History Day, but helped others who are not part of his classes and sees the benefits of what National History Day can do on a student

It meets different learning styles and creativity styles,”

— Dave Mayer

“Every few weeks we went to the media center and were researching whatever they wanted to research that had to do with the theme Triumph and Tragedy and by Christmas time they had to have their project done and those we saw potential then we worked with them…Some people like performances, so they can do that. Some people are good writers, so they can do that. It meets different learning styles and creativity styles,” Mayer said.

Out of the five students, each one said Mayer was the most helpful and influential person throughout the process.

“He has referred us to a lot of research facilities we can use and different websites we could go to. He has paid all of our expenses and made sure we got everything we need to get there and back. He’s been really supportive and has been more like a friend through this experience instead of being like a teacher and it’s been really nice,” Bixby said.

If the students advance to the next stage in the competition, they will travel to the University of Maryland from June 9 to 13.

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