Do Know Much About History

Sure, STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — gets lots of education headlines.

But history is alive and well in Westport schools too.

Two Staples High students recently finished 8th in the nation.

Meanwhile, 4 Bedford Middle Schoolers landed in the national top 4.

Stapleites Shea Curran and Kate Enquist were students this past year in Drew Coyne’s sophomore US History Honors course. He asked his students to find a National History Day topic on the theme of conflict and compromise.

Initially, Shea admits, “Kate and I were not really looking forward to NHD. We imagined it was filled with history nerds and crazy parents.”

But as they searched for ideas, they found an article on Westport’s Nike missile sites on (ta da!) “06880.” They got hooked — and realized history can be interesting, exciting (and cool).

Nike missiles on display.

They spent months researching the topic, using old newspapers and other material — some of it previously classified. They also interviewed people who were there.

The process was not easy, Kate says. But it was rewarding.

Shea and Kate were amazed to learn that missiles were once stored on the current site of Bedford Middle School. They were stunned to discover how close the US came to nuclear war.

The project “opened our eyes to today’s society,” Shea says. “We realize the importance of civilians being able to voice their concerns, suggestions or opinions.”

During the Cold War, she notes, “if civilians did not speak up, the results of the Nike missile sites would be much different.”

Shea Curran and Kate Enquist

The entire National History Day experience has sparked Kate’s interest in government and history. She’ll volunteer in those areas this summer, and will take AP Government in the fall.

(To view Shea and Kate’s project online, click here.)

At the junior level, Bedford’s Jason Chiu-Skow, Jordan Chiu-Skow, Johann Kobelitsch and Lyah Muktavaram worked since October — during their lunches — with teacher Caroline Davis. They also spent hours together after school, and on weekend.

Their topic was “How the Treaty of Versailles Ended the Great War.” They chose it because they realized that compromise is not always fair.

The Bedford Middle School National History Day team, at the national competition.

As part of their project, the Bedford students learned how to do research, present a convincing argument, answer judges’ questions, and work as a team.

They finished 3rd in Fairfield County, then first in Connecticut, before earning 4th place at the national competition (which also included Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Singapore, South Korea and South Asia).

The National History Day winners will be honored — and their exhibits shown — at a reception on July 14 in Connecticut’s Old Sate House.

There certainly is a lot of history there.

9 responses to “Do Know Much About History

  1. Mark Yurkiw

    Dear Shea & Kate, I wanted to thank you for giving me a very well done history of the Nike site in Westport. I have been curious for years to learn more and you both did a great job with your paper. You also made a very important conclusion; citizen activism makes a big difference and is heard in our democracy. We all need to be perpetually vigilant & engaged, we owe it to ourselves and country.

  2. Seth Goltzer

    congradulation to these fine students. An important addendum to the Nike Missle saga is the Movie “Rally Round the Flag, Boys”., 1958, the small Town if Putnams Landing , (westport) protests the building of a Nike Mussle site in town, starring PAUL Newman and Joanne Woodward.
    It’s a good insight into that time period.
    Worth adding to your research.
    Keep up the great work!

  3. Seth Goltzer

    PS , Wassell Lane , across from Daybreak Nursuries has mostly small houses that were all the same at one time. They were built by the Military to house the crews of the Nike Missle site.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      Not only Nike site personnel but military personnel who commuted to Floyd Bennet Field as I went to Staples with them
      So now we will have beautiful cluster housing on the old Daybreak Nursery site to enhance the view and increase the bottleneck

  4. Karen Kramer

    Do we know if missles are still under the school. How was this all cleaned up?

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    As a retired International Baccalaureate teacher I was thrilled by this article and kudos to the participants.History is not dead .It is live and well.If more had studied history they would soon realize the world’s pressing issues are all
    rooted in the past .

  6. Dorothy Fincher

    A brief footnote to the Nike site — for several intervening years, it was a thriving Community Garden — many families were involved in a wonderful growing experience, Getting water was a problematic. The fire department came to our rescue, placing barrels nearby, which they filled periodically. We then transported water by buckets to our plots. Much, just about ripe produce, ended up in other folks baskets however.