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Two for the history books Two for the history books

For some students, it’s hard enough just to stay awake during history class. For Klahowya Secondary School freshmen Ruthie Hawley and Emily Kreifels, it’s a subject that’s had them losing sleep this school year.

The duo set out to compete in Washington state’s arm of the National History Day contest recently and compete they did. Both took second-place honors for the history research projects they presented and are now headed to the National History Day contest, which will take place later this year near Washington, D.C.

“I’m really excited,” Kreifels said.

“I’m really glad that they liked mine,” Hawley added, of the state judges who deemed both students’ projects worthy of competing at the national level.

It’ll be a family affair, too, as they’ll be accompanied by their dads, Klahowya teachers Rob Hawley (science and AP biology) and Jeff Kreifels (American studies and AP European history).

“They both vastly exceeded my expectations at state,” Jeff said.

The pair has put in a lot of work since December and that workload isn’t expected to abate anytime soon.

The National History Day contest is one that calls on students — some 500,000 across the country — to put together projects based on historical figures that surround a common theme. This year’s theme, for example, is “Conflict and Compromise in History.” The projects can consist of either a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or Web site and require a heap of research, even at the state level.

Ruthie produced a 10-minute documentary on environmentalist Rachel Carson that topped 14 other student projects in the state.

Emily put together a performance piece on Rosie the Riveter and women on the home front during World War II that beat out nine other student projects.

The seed of competition may have been planted in them last year, when they were required to compete at the state level as students in Jeff’s class. It may also just have to do with the girls’ interest in history and their drive to go the extra mile.

Ruthie has personal ties to the project. Her grandparents’ home in Southport Island, Maine, actually put them within eyesight of where Carson performed some of her environmental studies.

“My grandma would actually see Carson doing her work in the tide pools,” Ruthie said.

Having anecdotes like that doesn’t exactly make the project much easier, though.

“The research itself is probably a six-week to two-month process,” Jeff said.

He’s not talking simple stuff, either. Competitors are expected to go after primary sources of information — personal interviews, journals, etc. — and amass a mountainous bibliography by the time they turn in their projects.

Jeff estimated that the higher-ranking projects at state will carry about 75 sources and Emily expected to “probably at least double” that for her upcoming run at nationals.

For Ruthie and Emily, these projects don’t count for any school credit, either, so any research they do for the projects is entirely on their own time.

“You just fit it in whenever possible,” Emily said.

Even as Ruthie and Emily add to their already-formidable projects, there’s no guarantee of success at nationals.

“The odds are vastly stacked against them,” Jeff said.

Indeed — more than 2,000 students will be on-hand for the national contest, according to the National History Day Web site.

Besides that, it’s not certain that Ruthie or Emily will get — or will take — another shot at competing nationally. They’re only the second and third Klahowya students to ever qualify for the national competition and given the amount of work that goes into a project, neither is sure if they’ll be able to devote enough time in the future.

They’ll savor this opportunity, even if it costs them a little ribbing from their friends.

“Yeah, they said, ‘Have fun at the ultimate nerd day competition,’” Ruthie said of her friends.

At least they’ll be assured of favorable standing in their history classes from here on out.

“Even as a history teacher, with the amount of research they’ve done, they know more about those subjects than I do,” Jeff said.

The National History Day contest will take place June 15-19 at the University of Maryland.

For some students, it’s hard enough just to stay awake during history class. For Klahowya Secondary School freshmen Ruthie Hawley and Emily Kreifels, it’s a subject that’s had them losing sleep this school year.

The duo set out to compete in Washington state’s arm of the National History Day contest recently and compete they did. Both took second-place honors for the history research projects they presented and are now headed to the National History Day contest, which will take place later this year near Washington, D.C.

“I’m really excited,” Kreifels said.

“I’m really glad that they liked mine,” Hawley added, of the state judges who deemed both students’ projects worthy of competing at the national level.

It’ll be a family affair, too, as they’ll be accompanied by their dads, Klahowya teachers Rob Hawley (science and AP biology) and Jeff Kreifels (American studies and AP European history).

“They both vastly exceeded my expectations at state,” Jeff said.

The pair has put in a lot of work since December and that workload isn’t expected to abate anytime soon.

The National History Day contest is one that calls on students — some 500,000 across the country — to put together projects based on historical figures that surround a common theme. This year’s theme, for example, is “Conflict and Compromise in History.” The projects can consist of either a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or Web site and require a heap of research, even at the state level.

Ruthie produced a 10-minute documentary on environmentalist Rachel Carson that topped 14 other student projects in the state.

Emily put together a performance piece on Rosie the Riveter and women on the home front during World War II that beat out nine other student projects.

The seed of competition may have been planted in them last year, when they were required to compete at the state level as students in Jeff’s class. It may also just have to do with the girls’ interest in history and their drive to go the extra mile.

Ruthie has personal ties to the project. Her grandparents’ home in Southport Island, Maine, actually put them within eyesight of where Carson performed some of her environmental studies.

“My grandma would actually see Carson doing her work in the tide pools,” Ruthie said.

Having anecdotes like that doesn’t exactly make the project much easier, though.

“The research itself is probably a six-week to two-month process,” Jeff said.

He’s not talking simple stuff, either. Competitors are expected to go after primary sources of information — personal interviews, journals, etc. — and amass a mountainous bibliography by the time they turn in their projects.

Jeff estimated that the higher-ranking projects at state will carry about 75 sources and Emily expected to “probably at least double” that for her upcoming run at nationals.

For Ruthie and Emily, these projects don’t count for any school credit, either, so any research they do for the projects is entirely on their own time.

“You just fit it in whenever possible,” Emily said.

Even as Ruthie and Emily add to their already-formidable projects, there’s no guarantee of success at nationals.

“The odds are vastly stacked against them,” Jeff said.

Indeed — more than 2,000 students will be on-hand for the national contest, according to the National History Day Web site.

Besides that, it’s not certain that Ruthie or Emily will get — or will take — another shot at competing nationally. They’re only the second and third Klahowya students to ever qualify for the national competition and given the amount of work that goes into a project, neither is sure if they’ll be able to devote enough time in the future.

They’ll savor this opportunity, even if it costs them a little ribbing from their friends.

“Yeah, they said, ‘Have fun at the ultimate nerd day competition,’” Ruthie said of her friends.

At least they’ll be assured of favorable standing in their history classes from here on out.

“Even as a history teacher, with the amount of research they’ve done, they know more about those subjects than I do,” Jeff said.

The National History Day contest will take place June 15-19 at the University of Maryland.

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