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They Don't Have A Mrs. Barker

Guest Contributor

Arkansas History Day is an educational program that is part of National History Day, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 6-12th grade students learn a love of history and boost research skills, working on a project that aligns with Arkansas literacy standards. History Day students compete in one of five categories. There are interpretive exhibits similar to science fairs, 10-minute documentary films, historical websites, research papers, and dramatic performances. Projects can be done individually or in a group. Winners from area school contests sent their top six projects per type to a Regional Competition hosted at Harding University. NHD Arkansas holds six regional contests in February and March and the state contest in April. From the state contest about 60 student winners are competitively selected to attend the national contest in June, outside Washington D.C. There they compete against the other 50 states, US Territories, and several countries.

Years ago, students in advanced history at AHLF were part of History Day, but few in the building remember that. The program was restarted last year and is led by Melanie Barker. Those who know Mrs. Barker know her energy and love for History. Those close to her also know how competitive she is. She has volunteered her time Thursdays after school to help students with their projects. She was also enrolled in a National History Day Historical Argumentation Series in the fall to increase her skills. Last year she had two students who went to Nationals, and this year she aimed to expand that number. About 3500 Arkansas students started the project, and by the time winners at State were announced, that number had gone down to 60 students, meaning about 98% don’t make it to Nationals. Many schools are from wealthier areas, and some have done the project for decades. Her students knew there would be strong competition, but they also knew they had a dedicated coach and cheerleader in their corner in the form of Mrs. Barker. She is driven and helps the students believe in themselves. This year she has six students who qualified for Nationals, which means 10% of the Arkansas delegation are Mrs. Barker’s students. One of her students said of the win over some of the usual powerhouses, “They have all the money and resources, but they don’t have a Mrs. Barker.” Her dedication to students was recognized last year when she won the program’s Best New Teacher Award for the State.

Mrs. Barker is still working to help students improve their projects for Nationals. Student winners can receive a $600 travel grant from AR Heritage, but that will not cover the full cost, so Mrs. Barker is also working to secure donations to match those funds. The future of History Day at AHLF Junior High is strong in her capable, competitive, and loving hands.


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