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Crete Students Win at National History Day District Contest

Three Crete students with medals at History Day
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    Three Crete High School students, junior Emily Binder, and sophomores Zoe Kraus and Elizabeth Eltze, participated in the National History Day: Nebraska Lincoln District contest on Wednesday March 7. All three placed in the competition.   The annual event, held at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, followed the national theme: Conflict and Compromise, and the Crete students were entered in three different categories.   Binder, prepared a website, Kraus created a documentary, and Elizabeth Eltze wrote a paper.  Approximately 80 middle and high school students from the Lincoln area district took part in the competition. The Crete winners will now move on to the state contest at Nebraska Wesleyan University on April 7.

    Binder’s website, “Dredla v/s Patz:  A Small Town Land Dispute,” describes a local conflict caused by the complexities of land laws. A major dispute between friends erupted during 1904 and1907 over a piece of land in a north Crete neighborhood. The argument ended up in the Nebraska Supreme Court.   Binder used original documents located at the Saline County Courthouse and the Nebraska Law Library.  She also consulted, books, historical newspapers, websites, and held interviews to prepare her site that includes text, historic photos and live links.   Binder presented her website to the judges, and answered questions during her interview time.  She won first place in the senior individual website category.

    Zoe Kraus won second place for her 10 minute documentary entitled, “The Saline County, Nebraska Seat: An Historic Battle and the Continuing Conflict.”   Her project explains the long-running conflict in locating the Saline County seat of government.  Several towns vied for the courthouse before Wilber ultimately became the county seat.  Local newspapers of the time showed that the controversy was often heated. Kraus also covered modern conflicts that have surfaced in recent years, including the current renovation project.  She used original documents located in the County Clerk’s Office, books, historic newspapers, and also interviewed various county officials.  Kraus’ project won a special award, “The Best Project in Local or Nebraska History.

    Elizabeth Eltze’s comprehensive paper, “A Compromise between Freedom, Faith, and the Law,” won second place in the senior historical paper division.  Eltze’s paper describes a 1984 situation at Omaha Westside High School, that challenged the separation of church and state, and questioned other serious issues involving freedom of religion.  Students, led by Bridget Mergens, wanted to establish a Bible study club at the school, and met with resistance from school administrators.  This conflict ultimately ended up in Nebraska U.S. District Court, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court and took years to resolve in favor of the Mergens.  Eltze used original court and school board documents, and conducted an interview with Bridget Mergens.

    The contest winners are the daughters of Darren and Ellie Binder, Steve and Diane Kraus, and Brian and Heather Eltze.   Emily Binder has participated in National History Day for six years, and this is the third contest year for both Zoe Kraus and Elizabeth Eltze.  Crete students are coached by Doane University/ Crete historian, Janet Jeffries, in cooperation with Crete Public Schools enrichment teacher Karen Drevo.

    History Day contest entries are judged on content, appearance and presentation, and also how well the individual topics adhere to the annual theme.   In most competition categories, students are required to prepare process papers explaining their topic choices and their research process. All projects must include annotated bibliographies. 

    The Lincoln contest is one of seven district competitions in the state.  Participating students at last week’s contest were from several southeast Nebraska schools, and competed in the areas of papers, exhibits, performance, documentaries, and web sites.  Contestants are divided into junior and senior categories according to their age.  Project topics are each student’s choice, but they must to adhere to the annual theme. The top winners from each of the district contests compete in the statewide contest at Nebraska Wesleyan University. The top entries from each state competition advance to the national competition held in June at the University of Maryland at College Park.  Contest judges include college professors, public school teachers, librarians, architectural historians, historic preservation and museum professionals, and technology professionals.

    National History Day was founded in 1974 as a small local contest by the History Department at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.    The program’s goal was to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history in grades 6-12. The program expanded rapidly throughout Ohio and the Midwest, and became a national event in 1980.  More than 500,000 student researchers participate annually in this program guided by thousands of teachers and volunteers, and many local and state history institutions.