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Stuart Hall students to present historical research in symposium at WWPL on May 20

Photos courtesy of WWPL.

Students at Stuart Hall School will cap a year of independent research with the nearby Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum by presenting their findings at an evening symposium.

The Monday, May 20, event culminates the students’ explorations into the decade of 1912-1922. The History III: Historical Research class has examined diverse matters including the rights of women and LGBTQ communities, the origin of some professional sports leagues, and the global fallout from war and pandemic.
The symposium will begin at 7 p.m. at the WWPL, 20 N. Coalter Street in downtown Staunton.
Timothy Layne, who teaches the Stuart Hall class, said the evening program will give the audience a fuller understanding of the complex and eventful time that was 1912 to 1922. At the same time, the scholars will learn what it’s like to present their work at an academic conference.
Layne added that the site will only add to the excitement.
“It’s cool to be able to say: ‘Our students are presenting research at a presidential library,’ not just, ‘with the cooperation of a presidential library,’” Layne said.
Students used the fall and winter to develop research skills before selecting their topics and then identifying a question that tied into their topic. With every visit to the WWPL, the teenagers immersed themselves in primary documents that could speak to their particular question and inform an answer.
This semester, the class has shifted its work to using answers as the basis for research papers. Students are writing draft after draft, and classmates and Layne review them for completeness.
As new information shaped the class’s understanding of the transformative era, thesis statements evolved and conclusions shifted. Layne calls that an anticipated part of the process.
“Expect your ideas to change,” Layne advised the class. “You might think a source is one you’re going to use a lot, but as you go, maybe you won’t find it as relevant as you’ll find other material.”
By the time of the symposium, Layne has told his students: “You should be an expert on this topic. In fact, you might know this topic better than I do.”
The completed research papers will go into Stuart Hall’s library, the first installment of what Layne hopes will become “a body of literature” on an important era in world history.
“This class is one of the most exciting things I’ve gotten to do professionally,” Layne says.
The May 20 event is open to the public.
Stuart Hall School, founded in 1844, is in downtown Staunton and serves as a day and boarding school for students in grades 6-12. The school’s mission is to prepare students for engaged lives of intellectual curiosity, creativity and contribution.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.