National run at history

Kalen Moss, who will be a junior at Hillsboro High School in fall, sets up her exhibit on Lewis Wickes Hine as part of the competition in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Contest June 15-19 at the University of Maryland. Moss qualified for the event in April when she placed in the top two at the state level.Ask 16-year-old Kalen Moss what?s involved in doing historical research, and she?ll tell you it requires tracking down primary and secondary sources and then analyzing and interpreting the findings.

Moss scoured newspapers, field reports, letters, photographs and books to piece together the story of Lewis Wickes Hine, who was commissioned by the National Child Labor Committee in 1908 to photograph and document child laborers.

?I discovered (Hine) when I started researching the theme ?Rights and Responsibilities,?? she said about choosing her topic. ?So I just researched that and his name came up. I had no idea who he was. So upon on just very broad research, I learned that he?s the basic reason kids have a childhood today, which intrigued me.?

After placing in the top two at the state level in the exhibit category in April, Moss took her display of Hine and his work to the 2014 Kenneth E. Behring National History Contest June 15-19 at the University of Mary?land in College Park, Md.

There she competed with more than 100 young researchers in her individual senior exhibit division.

Although Moss did not place at the national level, her exhibit was one of those chosen to be shown at the Smithsonian Institute, said Kaylene Mueller, gifted educator for USD 410 and USD 397, who accompanied Moss to Maryland.

Mueller said more than 600,000 students in sixth through 12th grade nationally and internationally participate in the year-long National History Day program, and roughly 28,000 make it to the national level.

Four years ago Mueller introduced Moss to the NHD program after learning about it from a student?s parent.

?I looked into and said, ?Let?s give it a try,?? Mueller said, who offers it as an assignment her students can choose to do.

Through the process, Mueller said she?s seen her students? self-confidence grow.

?Once the students do it, they tend to be hooked,? she said. ?After students have studied on their topic for a year, they own it.?

This year 12 students from USD 410 participated at the district level and nine went on to state, Mueller said.

Students can choose one of several options to present their research: write a research paper, enact a performance, create a website, construct an exhibit or film a documentary. Most options have both individual and group categories. Professional educators and historians judge the entries.

?I started in the seventh grade with one of my friends, so we did a group display,? said Moss about participating in NHD. ?Every year they have a different theme in which your topic needs to fit.?

In fall, Moss will be a junior at Hillsboro High School. Her parents are Stephanie and Rusty Moss.

Each of the four years she has chosen to enter the exhibit category.

?It?s very hands-on,? she said of preparing the exhibits. ?You have to make sure you balance your research as well as present it. And I wouldn?t be very good at the rest of the ways.?

As Moss conducted her research on Hine, she learned about the significance of his photography.

?He traveled the country under the National Child Labor Committee and got into different factories, organized and took pictures of the conditions in which the kids were working,? she said.

?He was one of the main reasons that laws began to be put in place. At that time the public refused to acknowledge how bad everything was. So once the public starting seeing these pictures, they realized that everything needed to change and started pushing the government to change.?

Moss found much of her information about Hine using the Internet.

?The most difficult thing to find was childhood information and pictures of himself, since he was a photographer,? Moss said. ?There were a lot of newspapers from that time period about the child labor laws being put in place. There were a few books about him that I read.

?I was able to find some field reports that he wrote while he was out researching different things as well as the methods that the NCLC used to get the word out. They would send out newsletters. They had postcards and their own stamps. I was able to find some examples of those?that was really exciting.?

Tracie Lamb, co-coordinator for Kansas?s NHD since 2009, said students from six districts across the state competed at Washburn University in Topeka in junior and senior divisions for individual and group projects. First and second-place winners qualified for national competition.

?The biggest benefit is doing a hands-on history project that gets kids college-ready,? Lamb said about those who participate in NHD. ?Students learn how to write, research and find reliable sources.?

But, Lamb added, cuts in state funding mean Kansas is the only state that operates NHD as a nonprofit organization and has to rely on entry fees to fund the program and volunteers to administer the event.

To attend the national event, Moss said she raised more than $2,500.

?We went to some (local) organizations that donated some money,? she said, including Hillsboro Lions Club and the American Legion.

Cardie Oil Inc. paid for USPS shipping the exhibit to Maryland, she said.

Moss said she also held a garage sale as well as several bake sales; family and friends contributed as well.

?Time management was huge,? she said about practical lessons learned. ?Because this was the first time I had shipped everything, I realized how important compacting everything is and making sure it?s shippable and easy. ?

Her exhibit, which could be disassembled, measured about 6 feet tall.

?In past years, I haven?t needed to find newspapers and such and figure where and how important they were at that time,? she said about the research process. ?This year I did focus on the why and it was cool how easy it was to find. But it was definitely challenging to decide which ones were important.?

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