Special to the Star News
“I never thought I’d be so excited to go to a library but I can’t wait for Wilson,” were the words being said by a lot of Salk eighth-graders recently. “That’s exactly what I posted on Facebook and all the other eighth-grade magnet students were liking the post and commenting that they felt the same way,” said Michaela Martin.
“Wilson” is a reference to the Wilson Library on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. It’s a premier Big Ten research library and one of the largest in the country consisting of six floors and a massive underground reserve collection.
Sixty of Salk’s eighth-graders in the STEM Pre-Engineering Magnet program went to the Wilson Library last month to conduct research, use the university’s databases and locate books they’d found using the library’s online directory.
“It’s an amazing library and you can’t believe how many resources are there until you see it for yourself—knowing how to use that library is pretty cool,” said eighth-grade student Jacob Griffiths.
Over 250 Salk seventh-grade students are looking forward to making their own journey to the Wilson Library in mid-February. Interns from the university will be on hand to help students use the library and conduct their research. Over a dozen Salk eighth graders returned to the Wilson Library on their own on a Saturday in January to conduct additional research.
Similarly, just last weekend, 44 Salk students met at school on a Saturday morning and took a bus to St. Cloud State University for some research time. The college invited them to the library and provided instruction on how to use the library and assistance with their projects.
Having the knowledge, ability and experience to complete a research project and use a university library is something that gives students who work on History Day a distinct advantage in their schooling as well as with a future career, said Ron Hustvedt, social studies teacher at Salk.
“What they gain from this project is confidence,” Hustvedt said. “Confidence in themselves, of course, but also confidence in their ability to tackle tough assignments and that the easy answer might look good, but there’s more to uncover with some thoughtful digging. Social studies is about preparing students to become productive and informed citizens and this project does a great job of that.”
Students select their own topic and then dig into it, Hustvedt said. “Anybody who has ever done research knows that it can bring you lots of places you never expected. Because they choose something interesting to them they dig deeper than they normally would and come away learning a ton of history in the process because everything is so interconnected,” Hustvedt said.
The support provided by institutions like St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota helps make the project a success. “All this support is spearheaded by the Minnesota History Day staff out of the Minnesota History Center — they do a great job supporting the teachers and students,” Hustvedt said.
The culmination of Salk’s History Day project comes at the end of February, when volunteer judges from the community come to school to review the students’ completed projects. Hustvedt said there is always a need for judges so all those who are interested can contact him at [email protected] or 651-335-2385.