Elementary and secondary school students from all over Michigan converged on Saline Saturday, April 26. They came to compete in Michigan History Day, an annual competition that was held this year at Saline Middle School.
Fifty-two people, students and chaperones, took a 12-hour bus ride from Houghton – Hancock to participate in the event. Others came from Traverse City, Grand Rapids, South Haven, Bay City and other cities representing 11 districts.
The Michigan Historical Society, a non-profit organization based in Lansing, sponsored the gathering. They publish Michigan History Magazine, put up green Centennial Farm signs and sponsor other events to highlight Michigan history.
Larry Wagenaar, Executive Director of the group calls Michigan History Day “our flagship educational program.”
As Wagenaar introduced the event he said to the students, “You’re a winner just by being here.” They had to win local and regional contests to qualify for this statewide competition.
The theme for this year’s competition was “Rights and Responsibilities in History.” Students competed in three age levels: youth, junior and senior. Project categories include websites, documentaries, papers, exhibits and performances.
Though many projects concerned Michigan history, they represented historical events from around the world. Some popular topics were slavery, American civil rights, women’s rights, wartime issues, and labor disputes.
There were 156 entries at the Saturday event, both individual and group projects. These were supported by teachers, mentors and parents.
Also, as Rick Garcia of the Michigan Historical Society said at the awards ceremony, “You have approximately 127 judges there, voluntarily taking there time, who do it because they have a passion and the interest.”
In addition to three awards in each age group and category, there were various special awards. These included: Best Entry in Use of Primary Sources, Best Entry in Use of Family History, Best Entry in Use of Family History and the Elly Peterson Award for Michigan Women's History.
In the junior and senior divisions, two qualifiers for national finals and one alternate were selected in each competition category. National finals will be held at the University of Maryland at College Park. Nearly 3000 students from all of the states and territories will compete there, June 15 – 19.
Click on link for Michigan winners
As part of the Michigan History Day event, the Saline Historical Society rolled out the red carpet to the history-minded visitors. Weber-Blaess School, The Depot Museum, and Rentschler Farm were open for viewing. Local historians were on hand to answer questions.
At the Weber-Blaess one-room schoolhouse, Rebecca Groeb-Driskill and a cast of seven Saline school kids reenacted a day at school in 1903. The students were called in by the school marm, Miss Groeb, by her ringing of the large bell on the roof.
The class included both the goody-two-shoes girl and the stereotypical mischievous boy. The boy, who arrived late, had to sit in the corner with a dunce cap and was threatened with the switch for such misdeeds as pulling a girl’s pigtail. Students practiced penmanship, basic math and reading in their McGuffey’s Readers.
At the Rentschler Farm, students could tour the various buildings. In the farmhouse, Beverly Larsen made socks on a 19th century sock machine. Evelyn Barnes, serving as a docent, noted that they were seeing visitors from the UP, Flint, South Haven and other Michigan communities.
A group of students from Detroit was present at the farmhouse. They had prepared several projects in an evening program at the Ebenezer Community and Cultural Center. This is a center for teens and tweens offering enrichment activities that are not usually provided in Detroit public schools.
Visitors went away impressed with Saline’s historical heritage.