Another strong showing for Salk students at MN History Day

MAY 4, 2019—ELK RIVER, MN—This year’s Minnesota History Day was on May Fourth and once again the students from Salk STEM Middle School proved to be a force with their documentaries, exhibits, performances and websites.

Most schools only have a few students advance to the statewide competition, but this year Salk had 26 students. Of that crew, 15 of them left state with high honors and prizes placing them among the top one percent of students in Minnesota.

Those 26 students represented the nearly 500 students at Salk to successfully complete an extensive research project on a topic of their choice and presentation style of their choice. “We really focus on making this project successful for all of our students and the competition portion is just the icing on the cake,” said Ron Hustvedt, one of Salk’s Social Studies teachers who leads the History Day program.

Across the state, around 27,000 students from 250 schools participated in History Day with 1,200 advancing to the state contest held at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. This year’s theme was “Tragedy and Triumph in History” and students selected topics that fit one or both of the leading theme words.

“Providing students with choices is very empowering to them and puts them in control of their learning,” Hustvedt said. “The skills that students learn and exercise as they complete the project is hard work but because it’s something they are interested in, they are propelled to accomplishing more than they thought possible.”

Not only do students select a topic, they conduct original research using resources from the school, the University of Minnesota Library System, interviews with national experts and individuals involved with their topic, and extensive searches through databases, archives and museums. “Students interviewed doctors, professors, national advocates, survivors, and heroes who put living faces on these topics for students,” Hustvedt said.

All 7th and 8th grade students visited the University of Minnesota’s Wilson Library in January, as they do every year, to conduct a deep dive of research and utilize the U’s extensive database collection. This year the University also created a video about the partnership between the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society and schools participating in History Day featuring students and teachers from Salk. That video can be seen here:

The highest ranking project from Salk this year was a website created by 7th grade student Jenna Weatherly on the impact of Penicillin and Alexander Fleming. Her project was the fifth best individual website in the state.

Ten other students received honors for their projects including: a group documentary by Avery Mortenson, Mia Sarkinen and Nikita Muhonen on the Fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War; individual documentaries by Toyosi Johnson on the Black Panther Party and Julia Panko on the Chernobyl Disaster; a group museum exhibit by Ella Olofson and Leila Bakri on the All-American Girls Baseball League; an individual museum exhibit by Maja Hjort on the Loving vs. Virginia court case; an individual performance on anti-nuclear war child activist Samantha Smith; and, an individual website on the Kent State Massacre by Morgan Peterson.

Cash prizes were given to two projects including the group documentary on Lewis Hine by Nora Zak and Charlotte Lempka. Those two were awarded $100 for best junior division Labor History project from the Minneapolis Labor Review, St. Paul Union Advocate and U of M Labor Education Service. The group website on Thomas Jefferson’s Contradictions with Slavery by Sophie Rogers and Genet Gagnon was awarded $100 for best junior division project on the History of Exploration from the Associates of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

The 2020 History Day theme is “Breaking Barriers in History,” in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. National History Day in Minnesota is a co-curricular historical research program that builds college readiness and communication skills for middle and high school students. The program in Minnesota is a partnership of the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota, College of Liberal Arts. Program support for is also provided by the Legacy Amendments’ Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

Details on that theme, along with more information on the Minnesota History Day program, can be found at or visiting Salk’s History Day website at

Hustvedt Nominated for the MacGregor Teaching Award
In addition to prizes being awarded to numerous Salk students, teacher Ron Hustvedt was named the 2019 Minnesota History Day Teacher of Merit and nominated by Minnesota History Day for the national Hannah E. (Liz) MacGregor Teacher of the Year History Teacher Award. The MacGregor Teacher of the Year award is sponsored by James F. Harris in honor of his sister and is awarded to one middle and one high school teacher annually.

Each of the 57 National History Day affiliates may nominate one middle and high school teacher each for this award. Mr. Hustvedt is the junior division nominee from Minnesota . Nominees are recognized as teachers who demonstrate a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills, and participation in the National History Day Contest.

“Teachers are one of the greatest resources children have to develop the skills necessary to become critical thinkers,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “The nominees for the MacGregor Award have shown a dedication to teaching that goes beyond the classroom. I congratulate Mr. Hustvedt on his nomination.”

When Hustvedt was given the award at the Minnesota History Day awards program, he gave a brief but impassioned speech on the need for Minnesotans to fully support the Minnesota Historical Society which is being threatened by some Minnesota senators with a $4 million dollar budget reduction. “I love Minnesota History Day and the Minnesota Historical Society and it would be devastating if the personal beliefs of a few senators did such damage to the important work our kids have benefitted from and will hopefully continue to in the future,” Hustvedt said.

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