In order to encourage student research and the recording of findings in projects about local history, the restored Union Missionary Baptist Church will host Jefferson Junior Historians as part of its Heritage Center programming. “We will reactivate the previous charter with the Texas State Historical Association,” stated Gary Endsley of Collins Academy. “TSHA sponsors this extracurricular program started in 1939 by Walter Prescott Webb for 4th through 12th grade students. He wanted students to get involved in the actual doing of history,” Endsley added.
The revitalized Junior Historian chapter will recruit from within the established Jefferson ISD school instructional program. It will be guided by school-approved sponsors with co-sponsors and community volunteers playing important supportive roles. While encouraging the exploration and documentation of state and community history, the Jefferson Junior Historian program will create opportunities for students to learn research, critical inquiry, analytical reading, writing, critical thinking, and debate skills.
One of the major objectives of the program is to encourage chapter members to research a topic on state or local history and to record their findings in a research project. Cross-curricular applications arise in the varied options for project presentation. Students may choose a project category according to their abilities and interests: the collection of oral histories, individual historical paper, individual or group exhibit, individual or group performance, individual or group web site, or individual or group documentary. Topics may vary from major events such as the opening of navigation to Jefferson, to personal stories such as that of one student’s great grandmother who immigrated to Texas from Germany. While learning about history in a personal venue, these experiences also enable students to develop skills of formal writing, public speaking and presentation, media visual design, and public performance, among others.
Endsley is now searching for interested adults, especially history buffs and history teachers, to comprise the necessary volunteer support network. “Alumni of the original Jefferson Junior Historians would make perfect co-sponsors. I’ve already talked to several and have more on my list to get to,” stated Endsley. A cosponsor may be either a teacher or a lay person interested in community history. The cosponsor is a key person in the chapter organization as her or she performs many support services such as planning meetings, planning student projects, arranging field trips, and contacting human resources. If you are interested in participating as a student or cosponsor, please contact Endsley at (903) 665-2900 or drop by Collins Academy at 500 E. Broadway in Jefferson during normal work hours.