Jocelyn Feir and Grace Holst, eighth-graders at Miller Middle School, knew they wanted to cover an aspect of World War II that continues to influence our world.
They said it took a lot of discussion to settle on their topic: Rosie the Riveter and the entrance of women in the workplace.
The girls were a team competing in the regional competition for National History Day held Friday at the Student Union at Fort Lewis College. The top competitors in nine different categories will advance to make their presentations at the state competition on May 5 at the University of Colorado Denver on the Auraria campus. Presentations were made around the theme “Conflict and Compromise in History.”
About 200 students from five schools participated – choosing their own topics to create historical research papers, performances, multimedia documentaries, exhibits and websites. Students could compete either individually or as a group, except in the historical research paper category, which was confined to individual entries.
Judges, some high school students who participated in National History Day when they were in middle school, graded 28 historical papers, nine performances, 15 documentaries, 69 individual exhibits, 32 group exhibits and 47 websites.
“We knew we wanted to focus on World War II because it was such a big part of what makes our world today, but from there we went through several topics,” said Grace, whose parents are Cara-Lyn Lappen and Jon Holst. “We decided we wanted to see how gender equality got started.”
The girls considered topics such as biological and chemical warfare and technological development spurred by the war before eventually agreeing to focus on how the war sprouted seeds of women in the workplace and gender equality.
In describing the conflict in their topic, Jocelyn said, “Men discriminated against women because they weren’t ready to accept that women were prepared to work, and they were adaptable and could do the same jobs as men. They got kicked out of jobs or had to accept a lower wage.”
On the compromise part, Jocelyn, whose parents are Kate and Cameron Feir, said she predicts one day women will have full equality, including equal wages in the workplace.
“I think as the world evolves and technology evolves, we’ll get smarter, and we will get more equality,” she said.
John Hise, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Escalante Middle School and an organizer of the day’s events, said the biggest attribute students learn from their projects is perseverance.
Research began in September, and for those who advance to the state competition, they can continue to revise and improve their projects.
“The research was refined, and when kids had issues they sought help,” he said.
The constant process of revision, he said, illustrates some academic “grit” “I think that’s really important.”
Abigail Albert, an eighth-grader at St. Columba School, created a performance around Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” because she was interested in theater and “the darker side of history.”
Through her studies, Abigail, whose parents are Luke and Jennie Albert, said she discovered the play was an allegory for McCarthyism and the Red Scare of the 1950s, and she learned that social and political protest could take many forms.
“Not all protest has to be violent. You can do something fun and happy and creative. When I started this, I didn’t even know this was really a protest,” she said.