This year’s National History Day initiative smashed previous records for participation by students at J. Taylor Finley Middle School and Huntington High School. Many of the teenagers developed projects that explored local history topics and some used resources made available by the Huntington Historical Society.
Research conducted by the Huntington students adhered to the competition’s nationwide 2017 theme: Taking a Stand in History. Dozens of participants won local honors in February with many others capturing awards at the Long Island regional finals at Hofstra in March. Several projects have reached the state championships in Cooperstown, which will be held later this month.
A group of Huntington students who explored local history topics was honored last week at the Huntington Historical Society’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial building on Main Street. The teenagers toured through the highly regarded exhibit; “Before Suburbia: Huntington’s Gilded Age and Age of Guilds 1890-1940.”
Finley Middle School social studies teacher Jarrad Richter was on hand to share in the recognition and walk around the interesting exhibit. The faculty member helped spur the participation of many middle school students in this year’s National History Day program.
“Toby Kissam, the president of the Huntington Historical Society, made a great presentation about Huntington’s local history,” Mr. Richter said. “I look forward to working with the historical society in the future and hope that our young future Yorkers will take advantage of this worthwhile resource.”
The teenagers enjoyed the fascinating exhibit about yesteryear. “It was very interesting to see how much Huntington village has improved and dramatically changed,” eighth grader Gracie Gray said.
A person interested in local history could easily spend hours viewing the exhibit, which includes hundreds of photos and artifacts. “I was very surprised about the fascinating history of buildings I have been walking and driving past for years,” eighth grader Nicholas Tudisco said. “I will definitely look at my hometown differently from now on.”
The exhibit was a lot to take in during a relatively short period of time, but the Huntington students soaked in as much of the history as they could. “It’s amazing to see how our town has flourished and developed into a place full of entertainment,” eighth grader Sofia Mercuri said.
The Huntington students knew Huntington was a town full of history dating back well beyond the founding of the United States of America, but they didn’t realize the many eras the town has progressed through and how the village area has changed.
“I thought it was a great experience to see our home in the past,” eighth grader Riley Zink. “I learned man new things about Huntington.”
Mr. Richter has played a key role in getting Finley students interested in the National History Day initiative and nurturing their love for local history.
“I really enjoyed visiting the exhibit because I knew very little about the building and its history,” eighth grader Taylor Case. “I knew that Huntington contains a lot of historical places, but it was great learning about them in more depth. I will definitely have a different point of view of our town.”
National History Day Spurs Research
National History Day allowed the Huntington students to engage in studies that might not otherwise would have entertained. They enjoyed learning so much new information and exploring various research methods.
“Our Finley and high school scholars explored local topics such as the impact of songwriter Harry Chapin and the importance of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale,” said Joseph Leavy, chairperson of humanities for grades 7-12. “Their studies connected very closely and creatively to this year’s National History Day theme of ‘Taking a Stand in History.’ Anyone interested in the importance of our town and our community and its members from early times to this century and last are invited to look further at the research and projects of these students.”
The Huntington Historical Society traces its founding to 1903 and the success of the Town of Huntington’s 250th anniversary. The organization currently maintains five historic properties. Its archives contain documents dating back nearly 400 years.
“We spent some valuable time at the Huntington Historical Society learning additional information about Hale,” said freshman Neil Jean-Baptiste, who worked on researching Nathan Hale and designing a website with freshman Oskar Kilgour and sophomore Ryan Hoffmann. “I found it interesting that the historical record of the Huntington Historical Society was consistent with what we ourselves researched concerning Nathan Hale’s contribution to the American Revolution.”
New Evidence Emerges
The website developed by the three teenagers was sensational. Nathan Hale: One Life is Too Short for a Patriot captured this year’s Jack Abrams Local History Award.
Mr. Kilgour reflected on how the evidence surrounding Nathan Hale and his role in the Revolutionary War has slowly unraveled over time. “What was interesting to me was that new evidence has been unearthed concerning the actual location of his capture, which has been heavily disputed over the years,” the teenager said.
Details about next year’s National History Day program will be announced in the coming months. But, regardless of the theme, it seems assured that Huntington students will be returning to the Huntington Historical Society’s archives for future research.
“We look forward to collaborating with the Huntington Historical Society in our common work of preserving the heritage of our community and the nation for the very important reason that we can be inspired by the actions of such great figures and leaders of the past,” Mr. Leavy said.