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Marymount Students Bring History Alive for a Day

Middle-schoolers get into character with costumes and speeches

“May I call you back in a minute? I am in the middle of a conversation with Catherine de Medici. Martin Luther, Niccolo Machiavelli and even Ferdinand Magellan are here, too.” I actually found myself uttering these words last week while standing on Marymount of Santa Barbara’s middle school lawn.

Marymount celebrated History Day last Tuesday, June 1, and the “history celebrity spotting” was quite something.

Queen Elizabeth I rubbed elbows with Bon Zao. Alexander the Great seemed to be having a lot of laughs with Kublai Khan. Very popular, of course, were the sixth-grade’s Greek Gods. They mesmerized everyone with their tales, and then quizzed their audience’s memory retention. I noticed with dismay that the students did a lot better than I did. Lucky for me, Zeus was in a good mood and didn’t hurl lightening bolts at me.

Marymount’s History Day has become a beloved tradition at the school and has grown from a sixth-grade Greek Gods and Goddesses “living museum” to last week’s broader-reaching history event. The students work on their costumes and speeches for weeks, eager to wow and educate parents and fellow students. Catherine the Great was a bit intimidating. Her speech began with the words, “How dare you!”

Heracles’ description of the famous Twelve Labors was astounding, and Meriwether Lewis standing just a foot or two from Harriet Tubman in the eighth-grade U.S. history section made me feel like joining him on his expedition to the American West.

History Day ended with a festive-themed lunch for the students. The sixth-graders dined on a Greek banquet, while seventh-graders ate a medieval feast and eighth-graders enjoyed an all-American meal.

All of this fun, of course, was anchored in what the Marymount students have been studying in history and reading in their literature classes. History teacher Andy Siegel, sixth-grade teachers Amy Fox and Tim Pearson, and English teacher Deanne Anders, who also has taught drama, worked together to produce the cross-curriculum extravaganza.

“It was a chance for the kids to create living characters out of the curriculum they have studied,” Siegel said.

Seventh-grader Serena Doubleday added,” I loved getting to play Joan of Arc. By having to write a speech in Joan’s own words, create a costume and then act the part of Joan, I really got to know my character. I watched movies about her and did a lot of reading about her life. I feel like a Joan of Arc expert!”

So don’t be surprised if you happen to bump into a Mary Queen of Scots, an Athena or a Clara Barton in Santa Barbara in the next few weeks. It might just be a Marymount middle-school student playing his or her part.

— Molly Seguel is the director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.

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