Lessons from the past

KAPAA — Angelina Burson says she likes history because it gives people a way to prepare for the future.

“The more you learn about the past, it’s easier to learn about the future,” Burson said. “We don’t have make things up from scratch like the people in history did.”

The fifth-grader at Kapaa Elementary School is one of 65 students from the fourth and fifth grades going to the Hawaii History Day Fair on Oahu in April.

The fair, hosted by the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, offers Hawaii students the chance to delve into the history of a topic of their choosing.

For the last 26 years, the HCH picks a theme, and students pick a topic that fits within that theme, said Lisa Yamaki, HCH coordinator. This year’s theme was “Exploration, encounter and exchange,” and students were able to choose between presenting a website, paper, exhibit, documentary or performance based on their research.

The HCH, a Honolulu-based nonprofit that works to use the humanities as a way to nurture learning and inspire community and civic engagement, will fund each of the students’ air travel to Oahu.

Just over 300 students across Hawaii will attend the state fair on April 16.

“We want the kids to have the freedom to choose for themselves what would be the best way to display their research and creativity,” Yamaki said.

Kapaa Elementary School librarian Selena Mobbs, who helped spearhead the fair at the school, said the different categories are the best thing about this competition.

“It plays to their individual strengths,” she said.”Some kids may be able to talk for days, but other kids may not be comfortable in the spotlight.”

At Kapaa Elementary, some students, like Solomone Malafu, Austin Lee and Lono Aki, presented a documentary on the Boston Tea Party, while others, like Laakea Keao, Titan McKeague and Jayden Reis-Serquina, performed a piece about fishing and tools in Old Hawaii.

Kapaa Elementary will be the only school representing Kauai.

Mobbs said she wanted the school involved in the fair because she believed it would be a great way to teach the students research skills.

“I’ve been a librarian for 16 years, and that’s part of what we do — helping students with their research skills,” she said.

Mobbs said this was the first time the school has participated in the Hawaii History Day Fair.

For her project, Burson built a website profiling the history of Christopher Columbus.

“I didn’t know much about him,” she said. “I knew he founded America, but I wanted to know how he did it and why.”

Her five-page website detailed who Columbus was, what he did, his route to America and a history of Columbus Day.

During her research, Burson learned Columbus has become controversial.

“Everybody thinks he was a good guy, but he forced a whole Indian tribe to go extinct,” she said.

Moria Nagle, another Kapaa Elementary School fifth-grader, wrote a paper on the history of Mars.

She said it fits into the theme because it details the history of the exploration of the planet — from when it was first discovered by the ancient Romans, to the Mars Rover.

“I thought it would be a fun project because it’s the mysterious Red Planet, and I wanted to see what the commotion was about,” she said.

For her three-page paper, Nagle explored how the planet was discovered and how people today study it. She said the most interesting part of her project was learning how Mars got its name.

“It has a red color, so the Romans named it after the God of War,” she said.

Both girls were assigned the projects on Jan. 8. The school fair was held Jan. 28, with local teachers acting as judges. Just over 200 students entered the fair, and 65 went to districts on Feb. 27.

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