NEWMAN - A group of Yolo Middle School students spent their June summer school session delving into the history of Newman.
The 48 students divided their time between the traditional classroom and the Newman Museum, where they pored over archives in search of information to support their chosen historical topic and, ultimately, create a three-minute broadcast on their topic.
The summer school class is aligned with the school’s growing involvement in the annual National History Day (NHD) competition, said teacher Brandi Decator. She and fellow teacher Korey Santor are co-advisors of the Yolo NHD program.
Last year, Yolo students participating in the event incorporated local history into their NHD projects rather than finding national or international topics to fit the theme.
The summer school class is familiarizing interested students not only with the history of Newman but the format and rigor involved in creating history day projects.
“There is nothing more applicable to their learning than engaging them in their community,” Decator said recently while visiting the museum with a group of students. “Hopefully these students develop a greater appreciation for their community and a desire to do a National History Day project.”
Decator described the summer course as an exploratory bridge program in which students will create a mock NHD project.
“This gives them a head start on their resources and on learning how to make a National History Day project,” Decator noted. “This is a great way for kids to understand what the project will look like before they commit to NHD. They will have gone over the basics of NHD, and what the expectations are.”
A National History Day elective is open to seventh- and eighth-graders. Sixth-graders can have a project as well but will have to commit to after-school time once a week.
The projects chosen by the summer school course for their mock project reflect the 2020 NHD theme of “Barriers in History.”
“It is totally inquiry based,” Decator said of the process. “They look through and find any topic of interest to them, and then research it.”
Many chapters of Newman’s colorful history fit the theme of overcoming barriers, she added.
“I do think it engages them, because it is their own community and they can create relevancy with that. It is new and fresh to them. This kind of research forces them to get outside their comfort zone, but they are engaged.”
The summer school assignment requires students to research their topic, write their script and then produce the broadcast.
The mock project was the students’ sole summer school assignment, Decator told Mattos Newspapers.
The support of the school district and of Newman Historical Society members Deborah Allan and Mary Moore, who have opened the museum for the class visits, has been instrumental in the success of the course, Decator noted.
As for the students.....several recently indicated that the visits have sparked an interest in local history.
“I wasn’t really sure about NHD. I wasn’t really interested,” said eighth-grader Kyle Johnson. “When I learned more and got to visit (the museum) I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. It surprised me that I actually liked history.”
Highlights for eighth-grader Jordyn Andrade included finding her grandmother’s photo in a class montage and learning that California’s first motorized school bus was built in Newman.
“I like to see all these old things. It is very, very interesting,” she said of the museum visits.
The museum visits were an eye-opener to sixth-grader Fernanda Valencia.
“I thought Newman was boring,” she shared. “When I started learning more about the history, it made me shocked. There is a lot to know about Newman.”
“It is really fun,” she said of the museum visits. “You get to learn about the old days, and discover something new every time.”
Allan said the local historians were more than happy to work with the students, and look forward to continuing that program when school resumes.
Any project which spreads information about Newman’s history is beneficial, Allan reflected, and the NHD program encourages research and critical thinking.
“This helps them understand that there are places to look for information other than the internet,” Allan commented. “I think they enjoy looking back and seeing what life was like. We are really happy to be able to work with them.”