UPDATE: The team took first place in one of the “senior group exhibit” categories.
Fatima Ghatala, a teacher at East Oakland School of the Arts (Castlemont), tells us about her AP United States history students’ diligent preparation for tomorrow’s National History Day competition. EOSA is the only school representing OUSD in the contest.
“Who would like to present their project at the county-wide National History Day competition on March 20th?” I asked. The group members excitedly looked at each other to confirm, and enthusiastically raised their hands to volunteer. The class had already spent weeks working on research topics, and this particular group of students were researching the United States-Mexico War. They were first inspired to learn more about the war because of the impact the current U.S.-Mexico border has on their communities.
Ms. Natalie Carrillo, 16, Ms. Evelyn Gameros, 17, Mr. Gerardo Martinez, 15, Mr. Ricardo Cruz, 16, and Mr. Roberto Mendoza, 17 — all AP United States History students at East Oakland School of the Arts (EOSA) — spent weeks researching, including talking to teachers in the community, visiting libraries and reading books, interviewing community organizers and activists, and canvassing internet archives. As historians, they explored primary and secondary sources and developed a thesis: The United States-Mexico War was the first in United States history in which the media was used to generate public support for war.
The five students will be presenting their research project at tomorrow’s competition, where this year’s theme of History Day is “Innovation: Impact and Change.” EOSA has the only high school students representing the Oakland Unified School District.
I have been impressed by their dedication to the project from the first day I introduced it in class. They have embodied the roles of historians and researchers, as students and as of teachers, as they dived in, asked questions, taught each other, and taught the adults around them. As an EOSA teacher, I am privileged to be witness to the brightness and beauty my students present everyday, but oftentimes I feel youth — especially black and brown youth from Deep East Oakland — are overlooked, ignored, or cast off as unable, lacking, and unintelligent.
As this group of students interacted with adults, including professors, organizers, activists, and educators, I received emails applauding the amazing work by the students, each adult expressing how impressed they were with the students and their critical thinking skills.
Kathy Emery, PhD, Executive Director of the San Francisco Freedom School, was impressed with the research they conducted, and with the questions they continued to ask. Aryn Bowman, an administrator, educator and a part of the Principal Leadership Institute at UC Berkeley, wrote, “This group of students are amazing! I think that one of the most important opportunities we can provide for our students is to present them with meaningful, authentic learning experiences — not an easy task in a test-driven era. It has been a pleasure to watch our students dig into researching for their History Day project — constructing their own knowledge around important historical matter.”
As a history teacher, I was elated to hear their conversations and their connections between the present and the past. “What happened in this war still affects us –- it made a really big change; the war created new borders — now Mexican people are dying trying to come into the territory that was once theirs…” shares Natalie Carrillo.
On behalf of East Oakland School of the Arts and our students, we cordially invite you to attend the Alameda County National History Day Competition occurring tomorrow, Saturday, March 20, 2010 from 12:00-3:30 p.m. at Oakland School of the Arts (OSA), located at 580 18th Street, Oakland, CA. For more information, visit this Web page.
More info on National History Day can be found here.