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Five Grayslake Students Win at Chicago Metro History Fair

Projects inspire students to connect history to Chicago and the world at large.

From the atomic bomb to pollution of the Chicago River, from the ballet to Hull House to the YMCA, Grayslake students immersed themselves in history projects to learn from the past.

What began with about 65 juniors from Grayslake Central and North High Schools who entered projects in the annual Chicago Metro History Fair, narrowed to 17 who made it through to the recent Regional Competition at Niles North. Of those, five Grayslake students will now advance to the Finals Competition at UIC on April 12.

The theme for this year’s competition was "Debate and Diplomacy in History--Successes, Failures, Consequences."

"Back in October, students in the participating US History classes took field trips to the Grayslake Historical Society and the Chicago History Museum to see how local history is connected to larger events in the state, nation and world," said Tracey Landry, Social Studies chairperson for District 127. "This also was a great way to introduce and get them excited for engaging themselves with the Chicago Metro History Fair."

Students selected topics that met the following criteria: (1) covering an event or issue related to the Chicago area that took place at least 25 years ago and (2) one in which students could find primary and secondary sources of information to support a thesis.

The projects had to conform to the evaluation rubric established by the Chicago Metro History Education Center. Teachers at North and Central evaluated the projects and those that met the established cut score advanced to the regionals at Niles North High School on Feb. 26.

From Grayslake Central High School, 25 students submitted projects and the following five students met the cut scores to advance to the Niles Regional: Rebecca May (The Whiteness of the White City: Race in Chicago), Anastasia Katherns (A Christian Utopia in Zion, Illinois: Dowie’s Downfall), Kelsi Wilson (The Great Chicago Fire), Nikki McGill (Chicago’s Famous "Opera to Ballet") and Rabia Tayyabi (Hull House and Hull House Theatre). Tayyabi also won the Principal’s Award at the Central.

Over at North, almost 40 students submitted work for evaluation and the following 12 successfully met the cut scores: Lauren Bryson (Unfair to Well Aware: The Pullman Strike’s Effect on Society Today), Zach Young (Countdown to the Atomic Age), Amy Gross (Music or Not?), Nicole Davila (Bunnies’ Rights and Women’s Responsibilities), Alexis Massman (Singing Towards Freedom) winner of Grayslake North’s Principal Award, Ashley Obenauf (Adlai E. Stevenson’s Effect on the Cuban Missile Crisis), Shelby Hendricks (Who Killed the Candy Heiress Helen Brach?), Megan Finney (Chess Records), Erin Chatten (The Chicago YMCA), Matthew Teubert (Behind the Bomb: Secrets of Manhattan), Amy Gross (Music or Not?) and Keny Ponce (Pollution of the Chicago River).

Teachers at Grayslake North who taught US History and encouraged students to enter the competition were Emily Weiss, Georgette Polychronos and Tim O’Connor. At Central, Sarah Greenswag entered her students in the contest.

The five students who will advance to the finals shared their reasons for selecting their topics:

  • Rabia Tayyabi, whose family recently emigrated to the US from Canada, was interested in researching the immigrant experience at Hull House. "I was surprised at how immigrants in Chicago were really into the theatre and would do anything to see plays put on at the Hull House Theatre. Some would resort to extreme measures. There were two sisters who had a scheme where one of them would fake a toothache. While she was getting her tooth pulled, her sister would steal various things from the dentist to pawn off for cash to purchase theatre tickets."
  • Nikki McGill of Central, who has taken dance since she was 3 years old, was shocked at the impact that ballet dance had on Chicagoans especially in the Roaring Twenties. "I love dancing and have practiced many styles like jazz and hip hop, but ballet is my favorite."

Greenswag, in her second year of teaching at GCHS said, said, "Both of these girls showed a high level of commitment and dedication to the project. They worked so well completely independently that I didn’t have to really do much at all with them. They are exceptional students in my US History class and I am very proud of their work."

  • Erin Chatten of North, who works for the Grayslake YMCA, was so impressed by how much the YMCA’s did to help immigrants adjust to life in America. "I didn’t realize that the organization had a history of community service going all the way back to the 1910’s. The YMCA’s had a tremendous impact on the lives of immigrants to Chicago."
  • Keny Ponce of North was shocked by how much pollution of the Chicago River affected the river environment. "I looked at pictures of the river in the past and compared it to what I’ve seen when I go downtown. I can see how we need to make the effort to stop the pollution because of its negative impact on the ecosystem."
  • Matthew Teubert, also of North, enjoyed his research on the atomic bomb project. "The Bulletins, which were a magazine created by the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, had a huge impact on how atomic energy is used today."

Polychronos said that Erin Chatten and Keny Ponce were wonderful students and an absolute pleasure to have in class. "It was great to see them both evolve and grow as historians through their projects," Polychronos said.

Weiss was equally impressed with Matthew Teubert’s work. "He is well-deserving of this honor and really enjoys learning about history," she said. "His poster exhibit was awesome!"

Juniors and seniors who reach the finals are eligible to apply for History Fair Scholarships to Loyola and DePaul Universities. Cash and other prizes have been donated by such groups as the Illinois Society Colonial Dames, the Illinois State Organization of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, the Illinois Labor History Society, the Illinois Education Association, Illinois History, Illinois Press Association, the Canal Corridor Association and Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Association.

The Finals competition will be held on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus on April 12.

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