History Day Returns to Joplin

As the snows continue to melt away and we can begin to envision warmer days and the return of leaves on trees, flowers on the ground, and birds from southern lands, we also have the return of the annual National History Day event. On March 4, students in Joplin will be participating in the event that will culminate in competition on the state level in Columbia in April.

To learn more about History Day, we contacted Dr. Paul Teverow, a professor of History at Missouri Southern State University since 1982, and the National History Day Coordinator for Missouri Region 6. Dr. Teverow was kind enough to answer some questions we had about the event.

Dr. Paul Teverow

Historic Joplin: What is National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: It is an academic program for students grades 8-12. Students present their research and analysis — in the form of papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries, or websites — on historical topics of their choosing related to the annual theme. The 2011 theme is “Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences.”

Historic Joplin: When did it come to Joplin?

Dr. Teverow: I believe 1979 was the first year at MSSU, where the Social Sciences Department has always sponsored the contest for this part of Missouri.

Historic Joplin: How did you become involved with History Day?

Dr. Teverow: When I came to MSSU in 1982, I joined colleagues in the Social Sciences Department who served as judges. In 1989, the Department Head asked if I would serve as contest coordinator. And that’s the way it’s been.

Historic Joplin: What has surprised you most about the students participating in National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: I am first of all surprised by the high quality of so many entries. Stories about education and student achievement today tend to focus on the low motivation and achievement of American youth. But in most of the entries, I see a depth of research not so common “in my day.” Some of them have found primary sources in archives & online that even judges familiar with the topic had not known about. On the few occasions when I have judged in recent years, I have also been impressed by quality of presentation in the exhibits, performances, and documentaries. Many students show a real talent for presenting their research in an engaging manner. If you saw the best of these entries in a museum or on PBS, you’d believe that they were created by professionals. Plus who would not be surprised to be an in auditorium full of 12-18 year olds who are genuinely excited to be participating in an academic contest?

Historic Joplin: We’ve had science fairs for decades, why do you think it took so long to have an event for history established?

Dr. Teverow: It’s true that History Day has not been around as long as Science Fair, but at 37 years [the first contest was in 1974], it’s hardly the new kid on the block. You’re right; it is still not as well known as Science Fair, but each year, about 500,000 students nationwide participate. That’s not chopped liver!

Historic Joplin: What are the benefits of History Day for students? For teachers?

Dr. Teverow: First and foremost, History Day gets students excited about history. Researching a History Day project has to be among the best way for students to learn that history matters: that events in the past have shaped their world; that what people choose to do and how they choose to do it have consequences; that for almost everything they take for granted, the past presents alternatives, some disastrous, some surprisingly viable. I have also had several History Day alumni and their parents tell me that History Day played a very valuable role in preparing them for college, because in the course of creating a History Day entry, they develop:

● critical thinking and problem-solving skills
● research and reading skills
● oral and written communication and presentation skills

Teachers also testify to the educational benefits. They have shared with me examples of how History Day motivates students and brings out hitherto hidden talents.

Historic Joplin: Is participation growing every year?

Dr. Teverow: During my almost 30-year involvement, it has fluctuated quite a bit, with about 200 total entries in a “normal” year. This year, because many schools are cutting back on anything that requires transportation off-campus, I expect participation to be down a bit.

Historic Joplin: Do students cover Joplin/Southwest Missouri personalities and topics? Have any stuck out in your mind as memorable?

Dr. Teverow: So long as it can be connected with the annual theme, ANY topic in world, US, or local history is fair game. I do find that for some students, a topic with a local connection makes history seem more immediate. It may also lead them to unusual primary sources and help them better understand how historians use primary sources to reconstruct the past. Of course, with entries on local history, it is especially important to place the developments in the context of broader developments during the period in question. Here is a sampling of award-winning entries from the past few years with local connections:

2006 Sarah Mouton, Carthage High School, Carthage, Teacher/s: Caroline Tubbs; A Talking Campaign: Emily Newell Blair Takes a Stand for Social Justice and Political Equality.



2009 Julia Lewis Annie Baxter: Woman, Wife, and County Clerk Annie Baxter: Woman, Wife, and County Clerk Joplin, MO, Joplin High School, Andy

2010 Eric Peer, Hoisting Joplin to Fame: The Freeman Hoist
Carthage, MO, Home School TEACHER(s) Julie Peer

Historic Joplin: How can individuals who aren’t teachers and students be involved? Can people donate money to support National History Day?

Dr. Teverow: I’m always on the lookout for judges. History Day could not work without qualified judges. In the end, what most students take away from History Day is feedback from the judges. Having someone show an interest in the project they have put hours into researching and developing, being able to be the expert when someone asks them questions, hearing and reading praise for what they have done right and constructive comments on what could have made the project even better — all of these things make students feel that their efforts were worthwhile and keep students coming back. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have a great corps of judges. They include my colleagues in the Social Sciences Department, MSSU faculty from several other departments, professionals from area museums and archives, retired teachers, and people in various walks of life with a love of history.

Yes, national History Day welcomes donations. See http://nhd.org/WhySupport.htm I am embarrassed to say that until I read your question, I had not thought of establishing a special History Day fund at MSSU, but I will definitely look into it.

Thank you for your time and answers, Dr. Teverow!

In addition to the information provided to us by Dr. Teverow, an independent evaluation of the program just released findings that support the benefit of National History Day to students.  The evaluation discovered that students who participated in National History Day performed better on standardized tests than non-participating students, and not just in history, but other subjects like mathematics, reading and science.

Understandably, History Day is something we can definitely get behind here at Historic Joplin!  For information on National History Day, just click on this link.

Why the Missouri School of Mines isn’t in Joplin

Why Isn’t the Missouri School of Mines in Joplin?

When thinking of Joplin’s past as a part of the Tri-State Mining District, an area that covered thousands of acres, one might wonder why the Missouri School of Mines was not located in Joplin. After all, the lead and zinc mining industry was a dominant industry for decades in the region, and notable advancements in mining were made in the area.

The most obvious reason is because the Missouri School of Mines was founded in 1870. Joplin, founded in 1871, was not yet a muddy mining camp on the edge of Ozarks. The French began mining in what is now today eastern Missouri in the 1700s. The mining industry in eastern Missouri actually endured until the 1970s when mining giant St. Joe Mineral Corporation finally shut its doors.

During the middle of the nineteenth century, there was an interest in establishing a school of mines and metallurgy. Rolla, on the edge of Missouri’s eastern mining region, was selected as the location of the new school. In 1870, the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy opened its doors to students.

Joplin was established too late to be considered as a location for the Missouri School of Mines. In fact, it was not until 1937 that Joplin received its first college, when the Joplin Junior College was established (eventually to become Missouri Southern State University). One can only wonder what Joplin would be like today if it had received a state normal school like Springfield, its neighbor to the east, whose state normal school is now known as Missouri State University.

Riches From the Earth

A typical mining scene around Joplin.

A typical mining scene around Joplin.

From time to time, we like to point out resources for Joplin’s and Southwest Missouri’s history.  For those of you who haven’t glanced at our links page, you likely haven’t noticed the link to Missouri Digital Heritage.  At that site is located the repository of the Joplin Public Library digital postcard collection which was used to great effect by Patrick McPheron in his Joplin video that we posted a couple days ago.  However, that’s not all that you can find at Missouri Digital Heritage worth looking at with concern to Joplin.  Another fantastic resource is Riches from the Earth.

Riches from the Earth describes its purpose as, “Riches of the Earth provides a basic introduction to the geological and industrial heritage of the Tri-State Mineral District. This district encompasses southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, and northeast Oklahoma and was one of the United States’ richest mineral districts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”  More importantly, it’s focused entirely on Jasper County, the “heart of the Tri-State Mineral District.”  What follows is 261 images of mining, from mines to miners, to even a few mules.

Interior of a Joplin Mine

Interior of a Joplin Mine

The project is a collaboration between the Powers Museum, Missouri Southern’s Spiva Library Archives and Special Collections, the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Rolla at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (U of Missouri – Rolla), and the Joplin Museum Complex.  It should be noted that if you have hopes of taking a peek at any of the Joplin Museum Complex’s photograph collection, this will be your only bet outside of buying one of the couple books the museum has deigned to publish periodically.  At this time, the photograph collection is generally off limits to the inquiring public (and in the process – Joplinites are cut off from freely accessing the best photographic and visual depiction of the city’s past).

Photograph access aside, Riches From the Earth is a good source for historic images of Joplin’s and Jasper County’s mining past.  It does suffer some from the slightly clunky interface of Missouri Digital Heritage website, but it’s a small price to pay for a glimpse into the past.

Note: All images are from Historic Joplin’s own collection.

Restoration Nearly Complete of MSSU Mansion

On Friday, July 30, the Joplin Globe ran an article noting that the renovation of the Spanish villa-style mansion that formed the nucleus of Joplin Community College’s expansion was nearly complete. The 90 year old manor, which has had many roles, will be the new home of the alumni association.  Tying the home into Joplin’s history, besides it’s role with Missouri Southern State University, is the fact that it was built by a wealthy mine owner.  As the last few decades have not been kind to the marvelous architectural feats funded by the mines of Southwest Missouri, it’s great to see one of them given a new lease on life.