A Night of History at Bedford High School’s Annual Fair

February 10, 2023

The 19th Annual Bedford High School History Fair was well organized, well attended, and filled with excitement as students shared their work. This recent event featured an exhibition of students’ projects in various formats. 

Participating students were members of the U.S. History II high honors classes researching this year’s theme of “Frontiers of History.” The breadth of their topics was impressive. Each student or group of students presented their findings either through exhibits, documentaries, research papers, or websites. 

Exhibits in the High School Library included websites created either by an individual or by a group. According to teacher Patrick Culhane, these students used either Google sites or National History Day’s proprietary software to create these websites that included such topics as “Ukraine: A Country Created on the European Frontier” by Josie Donnelly.

Exhibits created either by a group or an individual were displayed on large presentation boards. The topics explored in the library covered a wide variety of subjects including feminism through fashion, the jazz age, Jingdezhen porcelain, the Stonewall riots, and wartime photography during the Vietnam War.

This exhibit is about the 1989 uprising in Tiananmen Square. Photo by Doris Smith

When one group was asked why they had researched Tiananmen Square, the reply was: “We learned about it last year and this year, we decided to just dive in and learn more about what happened there.”

Among the research papers presented were: “The 1950s and the Frontier Events of the Civil Rights Movement,” “B-Beats Under Bombardment: Hip-Hop’s Splintering and Frontiers;” and “Ironclads: A Revolutionary Frontier in Naval Design and Engineering.” Individual students authored each of these topics. 

Meg LeShack, a visitor to the exhibits in the library, said, “Every exhibit showed how much more complex the topic was under the surface, beyond a simple headline or one sentence in a history book.”

The 17 documentaries were shown in 15-minute segments in four classrooms near the library.  There were five sessions that included films that had been researched by an individual or a group.

Topics of these documentaries included: “The Ford Model T: Assembling a New Frontier in History,” “The Oslo Accords: Falling Short of the Frontier of Peace,” and “1980s Hardcore Punk and Youth Counterculture,” as well as many other equally interesting topics.

In each of these classrooms was a teacher who acted as a host as well as high school students who were judges. Culhane indicated that “Seniors who participated in the program last year act as mock judges for this year’s juniors. They ask students questions to elicit more detailed information about their projects and provide feedback on the projects.” 

Families came to support their children and, in some cases younger siblings got to see their brothers or sisters speaking in front of an audience which was certainly a good role model experience. It was interesting to see how some students came up after a presentation and congratulated their friends on their presentations by shaking their hands.

Students had to research their chosen topics using primary sources, newspapers online, and other online resources, as well as books and interviews. Julia Dacayanan, who made an individual documentary about “Heliocentrism: The Theory That Changed the Course of Scientific History,” said, “It was a topic that interested me and one that I did not quite understand, so I decided to research it.” She also said that “making a documentary film was a good medium” for sharing the information that she discovered, especially the source materials she received from the Museo Galileo in Italy.

Here is one of the group exhibits from the recent Bedford High School History Fair. Photo by Doris Smith

Students Thomas Barney and Matsen Spirn, who created the documentary “The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of the Holocaust: Frontiers of Newly Found Jewish Identity,” said they found it hard to find images about that uprising because it was overshadowed by information about the Holocaust itself, but they said that they enjoyed the process, especially the insights they gathered from people they interviewed.

Nik Ryabinkin who made the documentary “Joe Kittinger: A Leap into a New Frontier,” said that he came across Joe Kittinger while reading about sky diving and was fascinated with him and his exploits, which included high altitude balloon flight projects. He said he liked the way Kittinger “seemed interested in making future flight safer for others.”

At the end of the fair, one student was heard saying to one of the visitors, “You have to find the sources, develop a script, make the movie-it’s a lot of work, but worth it.”

How many of these students will choose to go ahead and compete in the state and national competitions of National History Day? The regionals take place on March 12 in Stoneham. Winners go on to Winchester on April 1 for the state competition. The national competition is slated for June 11 through June 15 at the University of Maryland.  

To see more about the projects, visit https://sites.google.com/bedfordps.org/bhs-history-fair-team/projects-2223.

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Doris Smith is an Arts and Cultural Reporter for The Bedford Citizen. She was supported by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council from December 2022 - June 2023.

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February 11, 2023 7:33 am

Thank you Bedford High School students for this terrific exhibition — just reading about it was a wow! experience. The creativity and research skills displayed are truly impressive. Congratulations to all the students and teachers who participated in this. Well done!

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