Seniors dig deep in new history research seminars
Seniors dig deep in new history research seminars

Three new history research seminars for seniors are in full throttle.

At the start of the semester, each seminar class made several visits to the library for presentations and training on research resources from Head Librarian Eileen Schnur and their history teacher to learn about key historical resources, especially primary sources, available in the library. Additionally, students reviewed the process of research and writing and learned a new citation management system, called Noodletools.

In Mr. Place's fall seminar course, "Women in America," some of the topics individually researched are:

  • Women's Participation in the Olympics
  • Maternity and Paternity Leave in the Workplace
  • Social Media and Body Image for Girls
  • Gender Stereotypes in Running for the Presidency
  • Commonalities Among the Women Who Have Become Supreme Court Justices (including an email interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
  • Sex Trafficking

When Ali '18 realized she could not find enough information on why some women failed to become Supreme Court justices, she had to reverse her thesis to answer the question: What did the four who did become justices have in common? According to Mr. Place, "Her ability to approach the issue from another perspective was great." Another great moment was the excitement of Kari '18 when she "struck gold" in finding just the right sources she needed.

In Dr. Lumsden's fall seminar, "Teenagers Who Changed the World," some of the research topics include:

  • Joshua Wong (pro-democracy student activist in Hong Kong and one of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement)
  • Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez (environmental activist and rapper)
  • Jazz Jennings (spokesperson for gender identity)
  • Aaron Swartz (developed the internet information service RSS at age 14)
  • Belle Boyd (Civil War spy)

Dr. Lumsden notes that one of the things he has observed through his seminar is the way in which the students have helped each other, in the true spirit of a seminar course. Various students have found and shared with their classmates useful software, such as a free Google Docs add-on that converts footnotes to endnotes; databases; and source collections. "The students have developed a healthy spirit of scholarly collaboration that begins with a genuine interest in each others' topics. Classroom discussions have been spirited and helpful," says Dr. Lumsden.

Seniors in Mr. Oder's fall seminar, "The Constitution and Government of the United States," spent the first month reading every word of the Constitution, coming to understand the meaning as well as the reasoning of the Founders. The students also learned how to constructively critique classmates' papers, a key part of any research and writing seminar in college. Since the end of September, Mr. Oder's students have been researching their 10-15-page-long research papers, which include topics such as:

  • Mendez v. Westminster, a California state legal case of the 1940s that ended segregation of Hispanic students in California schools
  • Miranda v. Arizona, the case which gave rise to the familiar Miranda warning
  • United States v. Miller and Heller v. District of Columbia, two key Supreme Court cases involving the Second Amendment right to own a firearm
  • Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, a case from the 1990s on the constitutionality of random sobriety checkpoints
  • Bush v. Gore, from the election of 2000
  • Roe v. Wade
  • Korematsu v. United States, a Supreme Court case on incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II
  • Congress and the Metrication of American standards of weights and measures from the 1970s
  • The failure of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early '80s
  • U.S. v. Nixon regarding powers of the president
  • West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, a case from the 1940s wherein the Supreme Court ruled public schools cannot make a student recite the Pledge of Allegiance
There is no doubt that the seniors in these history research seminars are developing strong, college-level research methodologies and critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.

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