EAST CHICAGO | East Chicago Central High School's History Club was in the spotlight recently as members made historical and geographical presentations to schoolmates, parents and the community.
The presentations came as the result of collaborations with two highly respected national institutions, the National Geographic Society and the Gilder Lehrman Foundation.
Headquartered in New York City, the focus of the Gilder Lehrman Foundation is the study of American history. The foundation has a rapidly growing number of affiliate schools throughout the nation. East Chicago's West Side Freshmen Campus was just the second school in Indiana to be accepted.
The History Club borrowed one of the foundation's many exhibits, focusing on abolitionist orator and former slave Frederick Douglass. Librarian Tracy Schwerin eagerly agreed to host the exhibit in the library for a month.
The History Club intensely studied the exhibit and the materials that accompanied it, said club sponsor and history teacher Gale Carter, along with Carter's research findings. Additionally, they viewed a documentary on Douglass, read some of the writings from his three autobiographies and ultimately conducted their own research.
They discovered that in addition to being an abolitionist, he held positions as a bank president, vice presidential nominee, U.S. marshal, presidential candidate, foreign minister, World's Columbian Exposition commissioner and housing contractor.
The National Geographic Society project that East Chicago students shared was a giant traveling map meant to increase geographic literacy and interest.
East Chicago High School History Club was proud to be the first school in Northwest Indiana to participate in this venture, hosting the map of South America.
The 35-by-26-foot map was available to all West Side campus students and teachers in the gym for an entire school day. Carter took students through some of the many geography lessons that came with the map.
"The students loved the giant map. They stated that it was fun way of learning about the continent as opposed to sitting and reading. They wanted to spend more doing the NGS map activities. This is definitely a project that I will sign up for every year," Carter said.
That evening, for Parents Night, History Club members offered "tours" of the map and awarded participants with a ‘World Traveler' certificate.
Parents and children learned about both exhibits from History Club docents, Diamond Figueroa, Ayamba Eka, Mario Garza, April Rodriguez, and Ricardo Torres.
"Parents especially complimented the depth of knowledge and the passion that the students displayed about Frederick Douglass," Carter said.
This is just the first of many collaborations that the History Club plans to engage in with leading educational institutions.
The History Club is available for public presentations of their Frederick Douglass project by contacting Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org.