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Barry Schrader


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

The Articles started December 2007.


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A chance to learn about the area's history

By Barry Schrader.................................March 9, 2010

Attending the annual regional history fair at Northern Illinois University for middle and high school students in northern Illinois on a recent Saturday I found so many history projects on display it was mind-boggling.
Anne Petty Johnson, who coordinates this event each year, told me there were 303 exhibits in the Duke Ellington Ballroom assembled by about 400 students from 27 schools in the area. There were 33 teachers who brought their students to the event for judging.
In addition to the displays there were 127 history research papers entered into competition as well as multimedia displays and students performing historical skits onstage. Those receiving a “Superior” rating will advance to the state expo May 6 and the top winners then must raise funds to support their travel to Maryland for the national competition.
But the disconcerting part was that only two public school districts in DeKalb County – Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha – participated. What a missed opportunity for those students in the other schools around the county. However, I should mention that St. Mary Catholic School from DeKalb was also there.
In talking with two of the teachers, Hillary Einboden from G-K and Todd Johnson from Kirkland, I was amazed at the effort and quality of their students’ work. With more than 300 displays and no school names attached, I only spotted three of their projects: “Deacon David West and the Underground Railroad” presented by Micaela Canchola, Diana Ascencio and Eisa Garcia, then the “Devastation of Flight 191: American Airlines Cutting Corners” by Alyssa Shannon, and “Kirkland: When Sheep Ruled the Town,” designed by Kelly Aves and Courtney Bolin. I was also told about one titled “John Dillinger: America’s First Public Enemy,” presented by Brittany Lutz. There were many others earning a “Superior” rating but we will have to wait for an upcoming news release listing the winners to appear later in the newspapers.
Now here’s my pitch to the local historical societies and museum groups around DeKalb County – all 15 of them. Why not partner with your schools’ history teachers in the middle and high schools to find historical subjects of local interest and support this extracurricular project by funding their entry, helping with source materials and even going into the classroom to promote the idea to the students? The displays I saw would make a meaningful addition to local museum exhibits or could be utilized as a program idea for your meetings during the year.
Encouraging students at all grade levels to learn more about local history and appreciate the heritage of DeKalb County can only enhance their young lives. You might even get a history teacher to join your historical society or museum association. I can think of an example where a high school history teacher has become president of one, the Sycamore History Museum – Tom Oestreicher.


Anson MacDonald wrote on March 9, 2010
"Thank you, Mr. Schrader, for your adroit perspective here. I've been making this point for years to no avail. As a middle schooler here in the 70's, we had a wonderful program under the tutelage of Mr. James Womack and students were active and engaged in history fairs. Heading to state and meeting a couple governors were thrills of my childhood, besides the pride taken in presenting aspects of our local history to a broad audience. DeKalb school administration should be ashamed that they fund expensive and selective programs when such reasonable bang for your buck activities are ignored."

Kirkland was once the sheep captial of Illinois. Display created by Hiawatha students Kelly Aves and Courtney Bolin.

Devastation of Flight 191--American Airlines Cutting Corners, designed by Alyssa Shannon of G-K.

Deacon David West of Mayfield Church and his involvement in the Underground Railroad, built by Micaela Canchola, Diana Ascencio, and Eisa Garcia of Hiawatha.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115