Exeter High School Students Win New Hampshire History Day Contest for Documentary on Portsmouth Peace Treaty

Five students from Exeter High School traveled to Plymouth State University on April 2nd to compete with 110 other students from 14 school districts (an all-time high for the contest) around the state for honors in the 8th annual New Hampshire History Day competition. The Exeter students won first place in the Senior Group Documentary category for their 10-minute film, “The Portsmouth Peace Treaty: A Victory for the World.” The Exeter High group also earned a special certificate from the National Archives in Boston for their “Outstanding Use of Primary Sources.” They are now eligible to travel to the National History Day competition in Maryland, June 12-16, 2011 and will be working between now and then to raise the funds necessary for the trip.

The students, who spent eight months researching, filming and editing their winning entry, are: Chandra Boudreau, Ian Smith, Charles Rickarby, Zachary Keefe and Ariel Fleischer. Their teacher is Molly Stevenson.

In addition to research in original source documents related to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty that was negotiated at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard over nearly 30 days in August 1905, the students toured the Shipyard Building 86 Peace Building Museum and the Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit in downtown Portsmouth. They interviewed US Navy Public Affairs Officer Gary Hildreth at the Shipyard, Charles B. Doleac, chairman of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum and author of An Uncommon Commitment to Peace: Portsmouth Peace Treaty 1905.and Barbara Rimkunas, curator of the Exeter Historical Society. The students’ documentary includes clips of the interviews and historic photographs of the Russian and Japanese envoys in Portsmouth in 1905 and their welcome by local citizens.

Zach Keefe spoke for the team in crediting all of those who assisted with the project.It was a true team effort to research, interview, and construct the film,” he said. “We hope the film can raise awareness about New Hampshire's role in establishing multi-track diplomacy and the possibility of peace.”

In congratulating her students, Ms. Stevenson said, “As this competition was not part of any course, the students should be especially commended for their hard work and ceaseless desire to make the best documentary possible. Not only have they learned so much in the process, but they have also produced an engaging, quality documentary teaches about the Portsmouth Peace Treaty.”

The film was shown to an audience of more than 500 participants, faculty and guests at the Awards Ceremony at Plymouth State.  National History Day NH co-director Dr. Patrick May commented, “I’m always pleased that projects that focus on local history are entered. It’s exhibiting to see students using our state’s historical resources.”

Dr. John Krueckeberg, NHDNH co-director, noted that recent research on National History Day participants shows that students who participate in the NHD program do better in college and in their later careers. He said, “While not everyone receives a medal, you all leave here today with a unique and important educational experience.”

Dr. Cynthia Vascak, Dean of the new College of Arts & Sciences at Plymouth State University, host for the event, quoted Albert Einstein, saying ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ and continued “This experience has allowed you to engage critically with the past, to observe closely, wonder and envision… You are each engaged in the challenging scholar’s journey… and can now vision forward with a deeply rooted understanding of our past.”   The winning Exeter High School team will present their documentary during the annual Youth Day program at Exeter Historical Society on April 21st at 7 pm.

The Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in June is the final stage of a series of contests at local and state levels. The contest is named for Mr. Behring in recognition of his support of NHD. Each year roughly 2,400 students and their parents and teachers gather at the University of Maryland, College Park for the week-long event. These enthusiastic groups come from all over the United States, Guam, American Samoa, Department of Defense Schools in Europe, and even Shanghai, China. “The National History Day excitement can be felt across the campus,” says the National History Day website. “After spending months on research and preparing their projects, and competing at local and state contests, these students are eager to show their hard work at the national level.” For more information on National History Day, visit www.nationalhistoryday.org
For more information on the Portsmouth Peace Treaty see www.portsmouthpeacetreaty.org and to help the students raise the funds needed to participate in National History Day, contact Molly Stevenson at msteveson@sau16.org or 603-395-2574.


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