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South Jordan Journal

History projects allow Early Light students to be creative, study more in-depth

Aug 29, 2019 11:16AM ● By Julie Slama

At Early Light Academy, students participated in their school history fair to present what they learned about events and people they studied. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Early Light Academy ninth grader Shelby Gardner spent hours researching in books and online about the Titanic in preparation for her school’s history fair. 

Following the rules of the National History Day fair, students followed the theme, “Triumph and Tragedy” and could create a website, performance, documentary film, exhibit or write a paper. Then, they presented their work to classmates as well at an evening in late May.

“I learned about famous people aboard the ship as well as the ship’s construction,” Shelby said about her exhibit. “Obviously, the tragedy was the loss of lives and the ship itself, but a triumph came about knowing what improvements were needed with building new ones and needing lifeboats.”

Early Light didn’t participate in the regional history day contests, electing to instead follow and learn from its curriculum. However, it is something they are considering participating in this school year, Early Light Academy Curriculum Director Shannon Berry said.

“We had our junior high students follow the guidelines so we could explore the options for next spring,” she said, adding that it gives the history-focused charter school another opportunity to tie history into its curriculum.

Elementary students, Berry said, were allowed the choice to follow the guidelines or study something on their own.

“Our goal was for our students to pick a topic that they studied within the school year,” she said.

For example, fourth grade studies Utah history, so they took historic moments and people and put them on cereal boxes. 

Many classrooms choose creative ways to study time periods and people in history.

“We had one class write essays on a perspective from a predominant figure; another class created puppets and re-enacted a historic moment, and a sixth-grade class put on Greek plays,” she said.

Second grader Gavin Morris said his class put on an opera that explored ancient civilizations.

“We learned about the history of the people, their government and some public places first,” he said. “Then, we got to say our lines and sang in our opera.”

Junior high students did their own work either individually or in small groups at school, using the 1:1 ratio with technological devices. 

“We learned the history day fair gives our students better direction about what they’re learning,” Berry said. “It empowers our students with wanting to research more and create a project around a topic that interests them following the theme, and at the same time, learn from a variety of other students’ projects. Our students are giving more thought and substance in the subjects they’re studying.” 

During the showcase night, students gave performances — from Greek drama to playing Utah State Song on recorders. With crowds coming to support the 1,000 students and their projects, Berry said that the showcase will continue as an annual event in the spring.