Peter Friscia, a social studies teacher at the East Hampton Middle School, is exceptionally proud of his students this week. Fourteen eighth graders accompanied him to Hofstra University on Sunday to participate in the Long Island regional competition of National History Day. Two of them, Jason Karlin and Jimmy Makrianes, made it to third place, and Alexandra Ebel will advance to the state competition next month with her second-place project.
Training East Hampton middle schoolers to vie for National History Day recognition is a tradition started by Gary Zay, Mr. Friscia’s predecessor. Although many have competed, this is the first year that students have taken home honors for their projects.
The theme was “revolution, reaction, and reform,” and the object was to choose a historical topic related to that theme and then present the work as a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary, or Web site. The middle school winners competed in Web site categories.
Jason and Jimmy’s project, in the group Web site category, focused on Henry Ford’s assembly line, and their research included a trip to Detroit to the Rouge plant and the Henry Ford Museum.
It took months of research, Jimmy said, and there were many rules — the text had to be limited to 1,200 words and the Web site could not contain more than 100 megabytes of information.
“That wasn’t a problem,” Jason joked.
Alexandra had been fascinated by a recent study of Native Americans, and her project, Plight of the Sioux Indians on the Great Plains, reflected her interest in that subject. She took second place in the individual Web site category.
Jason and Jimmy will not be able to continue on to the state tournament. The team of 19 students they led was 2 short of the number needed to advance.
Alexandra is looking for ways to polish her presentation before it heads to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the April 23 state championships. “I made a lot of stupid mistakes,” she said, all of them technical.
But for Mr. Friscia, the glass is more than half full. “We were competing against schools that run an elective for this,” he said. “It’s part of their day. For us, we were touching base during lunchtime and after school. The kids did great.”