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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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History Fair a learning experience

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Tuesday March 31, 2015

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

One of the highlights of my year is visiting the Regional History Fair at Northern Illinois University because I am certain to come away with some new historical knowledge about someone or some event that I had never seen or heard about before.

This year was no different. Makenzie Hampton, an eighth-grader from Kirkland, chose to tell the story of Diane Nash, a young civil rights activist in the 1960s who was co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a major force in the Selma Voting Rights Movement.

By doing some research online, I learned that Nash, now 76, refused to take part in the recent 50th anniversary commemoration of the Selma march this year because President George W. Bush was part of the event and she disliked his policies. So she missed being in the march across the bridge.

Another entry that caught my attention was produced by Burlington Central High School students Arielle Carani and Anna McMahon. Their very timely exhibit covered the cold case file on the murder of young Maria Ridulph in Sycamore in 1957.

Todd Johnson, the Hiawatha history teacher, always brings the greatest number of students who win top awards. Among the students he introduced me to was eighth-grader Travis Haak, whose exhibit was about Stan Mikita and the invention of the curved hockey stick. Travis said he is both a Blackhawks fan and hockey enthusiast. Who would ever have thought of creating an exhibit about a hockey stick?

These St. Mary Catholic School of DeKalb students are some of the Superior award winners from the Northern Illinois Regional History Fair last month. From left in front, their teacher Samantha LeBouef, Jake Dudziak, Jason Klemm, Theron Koch, and Eric Schultz. In back from left, Katie Steimel, Lara Anger, Grant Goral, and Matthew Fleming. (Provided photo)

Hiawatha High School history teacher Todd Johnson, at right, discusses this display with Travis Haak who chose the subject Stan Mikita and the curved hockey stick for his Regional History Fair entry. It earned a Superior rating and will go to state competition in Springfield. (Schrader photo)

St. Mary Catholic School of DeKalb came away with superior ratings for eight of their 14 entries, which made their teacher, Samantha LeBouef, very proud. She even rounded up all the winners for a group photo, which she later emailed me. Some of her students’ topics the history of Ollie’s Frozen Custard by Jason Klemm, and the history of piano making in DeKalb by Katie Steimel.

Then there was Clinton Rosette Middle School sixth-grader Maya Wallace, who won a superior for her entry on Second City, the Chicago comedy club where comedians such as Bill Murray and Tina Fey got their start; another good example of creative thinking that most people would not identify as a significant part of Illinois history. But the judges found Maya’s presentation very compelling and rated it superior, which made her eligible to attend the Illinois State history competition this May in Springfield.
DeKalb County students always capture an impressive number of awards at state as well. But the discouraging part is that only four schools in all of DeKalb County even participate in the History Fair, meaning that hundreds of students miss out on the opportunity to display their talents and possibly win trips to Springfield and even the national competition that showcases the best and brightest from the entire country.

Over the years I have extolled the virtues of students participating in this extracurricular activity, but with little success. So this time, putting my money where my mouth is, I want to offer a $100 award to a teacher in DeKalb County schools, other than those mentioned above, who will recruit and mentor a student for the 2016 History Fair.

This means the teacher needs to contact me with the name of a student he or she has selected. I can even offer a half dozen local history leads that could be potential topics. This award goes to the first educator to contact me. To learn more about the History Fair and its guidelines, teachers can go to www.niu.edu/clasep/Fairs/history/teachers/index.shtml online.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115