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Bethany Johnston, left, and Barbara Napper, freshmen at Mannheim High School in Germany, look at one of the middle school exhibits entered in the National History Day contest Monday in the Gateway Gardens housing area at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. Roughly 70 middle- and high-school students from four Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe schools participated.
Bethany Johnston, left, and Barbara Napper, freshmen at Mannheim High School in Germany, look at one of the middle school exhibits entered in the National History Day contest Monday in the Gateway Gardens housing area at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. Roughly 70 middle- and high-school students from four Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe schools participated. (Lisa Horn / S&S)
Bethany Johnston, left, and Barbara Napper, freshmen at Mannheim High School in Germany, look at one of the middle school exhibits entered in the National History Day contest Monday in the Gateway Gardens housing area at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. Roughly 70 middle- and high-school students from four Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe schools participated.
Bethany Johnston, left, and Barbara Napper, freshmen at Mannheim High School in Germany, look at one of the middle school exhibits entered in the National History Day contest Monday in the Gateway Gardens housing area at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. Roughly 70 middle- and high-school students from four Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe schools participated. (Lisa Horn / S&S)
Jelisa Stevens, a seventh-grader at Hanau Middle School in Germany, looks at an astronomy exhibit at the National History Day competition. Jelisa's contest entry was a paper on Jane Goodall, a pioneer in chimpanzee research.
Jelisa Stevens, a seventh-grader at Hanau Middle School in Germany, looks at an astronomy exhibit at the National History Day competition. Jelisa's contest entry was a paper on Jane Goodall, a pioneer in chimpanzee research. (Lisa Horn / S&S)
Afghan women, played by Emeralde Surratt and Trish Smith, pay off a member of the Taliban, played by Sarah Brierly, after they are caught reading. The Mannheim Middle School pupils performed "Women in Afghanistan During the Taliban Period" for the group performance contest Monday during National History Day.
Afghan women, played by Emeralde Surratt and Trish Smith, pay off a member of the Taliban, played by Sarah Brierly, after they are caught reading. The Mannheim Middle School pupils performed "Women in Afghanistan During the Taliban Period" for the group performance contest Monday during National History Day. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

RHEIN-MAIN AIR BASE, Germany — Young historians met Monday at Rhein-Main Air Base to share and exchange ideas on a variety of historical topics. The forum was all part of National History Day, a competition for middle school and high school pupils.

In the Department of Defense Dependents Schools’ first year of participation in the program, roughly 70 pupils from five schools competed in categories of research papers, performance, documentaries and exhibits. Teachers, representing DODDS districts across Europe, served as judges.

Several of the judges had been involved in National History Day in the United States, which has been going on in stateside schools for more than 25 years.

“I don’t think there is a better thing I can do for my history students than give them the opportunity to participate in National History Day,” said Cindy Britt, a history teacher at Bitburg Middle School and National History Day judge.

In the performance category at the Gateway Gardens Theater, Mannheim Middle School pupils Trish Smith, Pamela O’Brien, Sarah Brierly, Emeralde Surratt and Mollie Bingham performed “Women in Afghanistan.”

Clad in burqas to portray Afghan women, the group illustrated some of the many limits forced on women during Taliban rule.

“There is reality in life,” said Smith, who portrayed one of the Afghan women. “[I learned] life is not all fun and games.”

At the Heidelberg District Professional Development Center at Rhein-Main’s Gateway Gardens, pupils and judges viewed student-produced video documentaries, exhibits and research papers. Topics included the Zulu war of 1875, the life of a Geisha, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and Aztec and Spanish encounters in Mexico.

In the future, DODDS plans to have school- and district-level contests leading up to the all-Europe contest. Winners of the all-Europe National History Day will then compete at the national level in June at the University of Maryland.

“I think it’s great because it’s a way to get kids personally involved in history,” said Tami Elder, a Bitburg High School teacher and National History Day judge. “It’s their project right from the beginning. They choose their topic and the form to present it. They go to museums and libraries. They write letters [and do] interviews. I think more than anything else, they think like historians.”

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