Flint Hill students present at DC Historical Conference

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Flint Hill students present at DC Historical Conference

The Flint Hill group will present at the conference.

The Flint Hill group will present at the conference.

The Flint Hill group will present at the conference.

The Flint Hill group will present at the conference.

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History teacher Mr. Thomas Neville and four of his students have recently been accepted to present at the 40th Annual Conference on DC History. The conference, which will take place tomorrow at George Washington University, is typically intended for college professors and experts in the field. However, with the student-driven research and individual passions exclusive to each of the students, they have gained entry to the conference. Seniors Nate Folger, Ryann Stout, Catie Chess, and Victoria Flagg will be presenting their research conducted over the past two semesters on aspects of life in DC alleys from 1860-1930.

Neville said, “Nowadays, we put too much emphasis on certainty; we want people to feel assured with studies. With this conference presentation, we will see footage of kids scratching their heads a little bit, really a furrowed brow.”

Neville explained how he discovered this conference:

“I was in the archives at the Georgetown Library in Washington, and I was gathering primary sources for a project. While I was there, I started talking to the archivist and there was another local historian in the room. He told me I should have my students propose to this conference. I looked into it and saw that we still had time.”

Neville is a firm believer in what he referred to as “authentic experience,” allowing students to work with the text first hand. The idea came from Neville’s aspirations to have the student work within a framework that professionals in the historical field use every day.

Acceptance to the conference is quite competitive, as its participants gather their research from primary sources and garner authentic feedback on their work in the form of receiving an acceptance or denial entry to the conference.

“Their acceptance is a testament to their hard work and efforts in the classroom,” said Neville. “These proposals were ‘aspirational,’ showing what they will try to find, and now they have their finished product.”

Neville’s favorite part of both his US History and DC History classes is the fact that the proof of his students’ work is not in a neat, little textbook, and that discomfort in finding the information was the most valuable part of the experience.

Senior Ryann Stout said, “Instead of using the textbook, Neville gave us a project which we were all so thrilled about… so we started looking at primary source documents about this subculture that was really pushed aside during the post-Civil War era. We still had to take an exam, we still had to take the same tests, but we had a little extra. At the end of the year we found out we got in, and were planning on completing the project with or without acceptance.”

Folger talked of his experiences with the class:

“Working with a document is a skill that you need to cultivate. You are not given a book with a pre-written narrative that is simple regurgitation… The discomfort comes when the students are presented with many options and they have to rely on their creativity to come up with something. In this class we were no longer given building blocks to make the finished structure; we had to craft our own blocks to build our individualized structure.

 

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