Students garner hardware at Wyoming History Days
PINEDALE – Students from both Pinedale Middle School and Pinedale High School excelled at the 2023 Wyoming History Day Competition at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center on May 1.
Six Sublette County contestants captured first- or second-place honors in their respective categories, advancing to the national competition at the University of Maryland-College Park on June 11-15. The list consists of PHS juniors Wyatt Griffin, Lauren Jones, Camille Kainer and Kelsey Cooper, along with PMS eighth-graders Bradie Gilmore and Hannah Kaiser.
Young historians also earned multiple special awards and scholarships at the event (see results text box).
Jones and Kainer produced their own 10-minute documentary on American civil-rights leader Malcolm X. The duo snagged first place in the group documentary division.
The documentary focused on Malcolm X’s role in the formation of a new Pan-Africanist entity called Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964, along with Malcolm’s involvement in the Nation of Islam and his controversial 1964 speech, “The Ballot or the Bullet.”
“The speech was very influential at the time because voting rights were highly contentious,” said Kainer.
Creating and editing a polished, 10-minute documentary took a considerable time commitment. Kainer and Jones relied on a program called iMovie.
“It’s a pretty user-friendly program where you can edit your audio, images and video and add breaks in your audio,” Kainer explained.
The pair collected historic images and segments from interviews conducted with Malcolm X to bring their project to life. They included music and spent hours narrating the documentary, working up until the day they presented their work at Wyoming History Days.
“We’ve done a lot of re-editing, re-recording, adding stuff, taking stuff away, compiling hundreds of images,” said Kainer. “The overall process is pretty long.”
Malcolm X’s timeline is complex and “non-chronologically ordered,” Kainer stated. She and Jones relied heavily on a secondary source, “The Dead Are Arising,” a biography of Malcolm X by Lex Payne and Tamara Payne that is full of interviews with people close to Malcolm.
“Having that information in books, having that secondary source, is very useful because you can’t find all that information online,” said Kainer.
Malcolm X was, and is, a polarizing figure. As a result, Jones and Kainer took care to find “trustworthy” and accurate sources. The pair tended to avoid media and political websites in favor of academic pages with primary sources, including Malcolm’s criminal records, Kainer noted.
Jones and Kainer premiered their documentary in front of a live audience in Laramie on May 1. After presenting their work, the duo watched their project on the big screen for the first time.
“It was cool to see it up there on the projector and hear it,” Kainer said.
Gathering sources – museum exhibits
Griffin generated a first-place award winning exhibit on the 1913 invention of the assembly line by American industrialist Henry Ford.
Griffin dedicated hours to finding the perfect balance between text and images for his exhibit.
“The hardest part about the exhibit board was narrowing it down to 500 words,” he said. “You really want to be able to tell a story, but you want to include as many quotes as possible.”
The junior waded into digital archives, from the National Archives website to college libraries, to find “credible sources.”
Griffin explained the difference between primary and secondary sources:
“Primary sources are written at the time of the event from people who actually witnessed the event. Secondary sources are generally summaries of the events taken after the fact. One of my favorite primary sources was a letter from the wife of one of Ford’s workers. It showed the working conditions inside the factory.”
Ford’s assembly line revolutionized industry across the U.S. and the globe.
“The assembly line helped usher in a new middle class,” Griffin said. “There was a new $5 workday – that was unheard of at the time. The assembly line helped us win World War II, because all of Ford’s plants, each assembly line, went to making bullets, making planes and other war goods. Almost everything you have today that is manufactured was made because of the assembly line.”
Kaiser and her partner, Bradie Gilmore, assembled an exhibit about photographer Lewis Hine and his pioneering images of child labor in early 20th century America. The team bagged second place in the group exhibit category.
“After the Civil War, lots of new inventions were being made, and (factories and businesses) needed little hands to get in and operate the machines,” said Kaiser. “Lots of business owners hired children and had them work for low pay to get the work done.”
Hine, through his involvement with the National Child Labor Committee, traveled to factories, photographing and interviewing child laborers. Newspapers published Hine’s images and captions, inspiring movements against child labor and legislation outlawing the practice, Kaiser explained.
Kaiser and Gilmore developed their exhibit as a project for PMS social studies teacher Mitch Irrgang’s class.
“Lewis Hine and child labor popped up on (Irrgang’s) board, and we were like, ‘Who is Lewis Hine?’” said Kaiser. “Our teacher had books about him and child labor. We looked through the books and decided that we really wanted to do this.”
Kaiser and Gilmore composed what Kaiser called a “process paper,” containing a list of all sources, both secondary and primary, used in the exhibit. History Days judges pored over the process paper, paying close attention to each source.
“The judges looked at whether the sources were credible – seeing if they were dot-org or dot-gov,” Kaiser said. “It was important to have credible sources.”
Cooper chose to write an essay about the Stanford Prison Experiment funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research in 1971, winning first place in her category.
A psychologist named Philip G. Zimbardo studied the dynamics between prison inmates and guards using volunteers in a basement on the campus of Stanford University. Mistreatment of volunteers acting as prisoners by their “guards” forced Zimbardo to cut the experiment short, Cooper explained.
Cooper is “passionate” about psychology and took classes on the subject through Western Wyoming Community College.
Essays at Wyoming History Days are judged differently than exhibits or documentaries, Cooper said. The papers are read by an expert reader on site and two historians reading the paper digitally from a remote location.
Cooper’s research consisted of “digging pretty deep” to find primary sources from the experiment, like the psychologist’s release forms.
“You kind of go down a rabbit hole when you start researching,” Cooper said.
The Stanford Prison Experiment still holds relevance 50 years after it was conducted.
“The doctor who performed the experiment did a bunch of testimonials for certain trails,” Cooper remarked. “He actually helped separate juveniles and adults in prison systems.”
Wyoming History Day results
The first- and second-place winners in each category advance to the National Competition at the University of Maryland-College Park in June.
- First place, group documentary category: Lauren Jones and Camille Kainer, PHS, for “Malcolm X: A New Frontier for Freedom.”
- First place, individual exhibit category: Wyatt Griffin, PHS, for “Ford’s Formidable Frontier.”
- First place, historical paper category: Kelsey Cooper, PHS, for “The Stanford Prison Experiment: Changing the Future of Psychology.”
- Second place, Bradie Gilmore and Hannah Kaiser, PMS, for “Lewis Hine and the Camera.”
- Folklore, Myths and Legends in History Award – Wyatt Griffin
- William H. Barton Award for outstanding use of oral histories – Kristian Ruch, PMS, for “The Ed Sullivan Show, a Musical Frontier.”
- Jurisprudence Award for outstanding entry dealing with legal issues – Bradie Gilmore and Hannah Kaiser.
- Camille Kainer and Lauren Jones both received the Wyoming State Historical Society Scholarship. Kelsey Cooper earned the Gerald and Jessie Chambers Scholarship.
- PHS social studies teacher Rose Robertson garnered the Dr. Robert Campbell Teacher Award for “promoting marginalized stories and communities through education.”
Contestants from Pinedale also included Pinedale Middle School students Teagan Fildey, Makenna Hansen, Bobbee Hooper, Charlie Irrgang, Oz Koci, Daviel Sterna and Taylor Wickham.