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).
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.”
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.
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.