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City kids bring history to life

(Credit: Urbanite)

"On these wheels: FDR's desire to save a nation" was among 191 exhibits from 370 New York City students judged yesterday at the 18th annual History Day at the Museum of the City of New York. (Photos by Kathleen Bulson)

Ryan McEvoy, 12, of Brooklyn, turned a corner at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C last May to find a model of a Danish boat used to transport 7,000 Jews to safety during World War II.

Inspired by his findings, McEvoy soon found himself visiting more museums, speaking with refugees and writing the Danish Embassy for his project on the Danish resistance movement. His was among 191 individual and group history projects displayed at the 18th annual History Day, held Sunday at the Museum of the City of New York, which sponsored the contest.

McEvoy, a seventh grader, was impressed that "a country so small could save so many people out of the kindness of their hearts; they didn't turn away."

The 370 students focused their projects on the theme “Conflict and Compromise,” and were divided into two groups: juniors (sixth through eighth grades) and seniors (ninth through 12th graders).

"This process allows students to choose something meaningful to them and to present in various ways expressing it creatively," said Franny Kent, director of the Frederick A. O. Schwarz Children's Center at the Museum of the City of New York.Diana Fedorkova, 13, Mona Abuhamdeh, 14, Valerie Kipnis, 14, Natalie Vintoyn, 14 and Mirela Music, 13 students at I.S. 30 in Brooklyn, interviewed Bay Ridge residents about the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the early 1960s. The five Brooklynites made a documentary on the bridge’s construction, a feat that required the bulldozing of thousands of homes. The bridge directly connected Staten Island to the rest of New York City for the first time.

"History makes up our future. We were learning what and how it changed the place we live," Fedorkvoa said.

Four eighth graders from I.S. 78 in Bergen Beach researched "Field Order 15," which was granted by Union Gen. William Sherman after the Civil War. It famously gave the freed slaves “40 acres and a mule.”

Gallal Dharhan, 13 said the group wanted to understand Sherman’s motives in helping the freed slaves through the land grants. (The order was later repealed by President Andrew Johnson after President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.)

"It makes me want to learn more about my ancestry and the Civil War," said Shameeka Skeete, 13, who worked on the project with three other students.

The other projects included examinations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, women's suffrage, the Space Race, gay rights, chemical warfare, Wicca, Chinese immigration and even baseball.

The winners, whose names weren’t immediately available, will advance to a state competition in upstate Cooperstown in May, which is followed by a national competition in College Park, Md. in June.

“History Day gives students ownership of history," said Jenny Lando, educator and one of the volunteer judges.

-- Kathleen Bulson

This project exmained Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations.

This project, by James Matlow, 14, of Genesis School in Bay Ridge, examined the Irish Republican Army.

A group of students from I.S. 78 in Bergen Beach displays their project on "Forty Acres and a Mule."

Joined by his father, Ryan McEvoy, 12, displays his project on the Danish resistance movement.

Students from I.S. 30 in Brooklyn interviewed Bay Ridge residents about the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in the early 1960s.

"Hero on the Field: Roberto Clemente" was produced by students Giselle Cortes and Adrian Raffa.

Tags: history , museums

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