BUCKFIELD — Kristen McBride was intrigued when she started digging into the history of the Shakers. Then she discovered that the last active community of Shakers in the world is in New Gloucester.
She decided that a portrayal of one of the early Maine Shakers was what she wanted to do in the annual National History Day competition set for March 24 at the University of Maine in Augusta.
The Buckfield Junior-Senior High School senior is one of dozens of students from grades six through 12 who will present a history project through performance, exhibit, Web, or documentary at the state competition. She plans to enter the University of Maine in the fall as a math major and dance minor.
Included in McBride’s research was an interview with one of the three Shakers practicing their faith at the New Gloucester farm community. She said she interviewed Brother Arnold, in his 50s, who has been a Shaker since he was 21. The remaining two are elderly women. She also read the diaries of a 19th century Shaker woman, Aurelia Mace.
McBride viewed a Shaker dance video which she will replicate in her own dance as part of her presentation. She’ll be in 19th century costume and will bring other items invented or designed by Shakers, such as the oval box and ladder-backed chair.
On Wednesday, the school’s seventh- and eighth-graders displayed their projects at a history open house where they were critiqued by the high school’s National Honor Society, said Linda Andrews, adviser for the history day competition and teacher of the gifted and talented. This is the first time that older students have made recommendations on the work of younger students. Andrews said the critiques are meant to help improve those projects that will be shown at the state competition.
Participation in a History Day project is mandatory for seventh- and eighth-graders.
The theme for this year is Innovation in History.
Eighth-graders Kelly Charity of Sumner and Rebecca Cooper of Buckfield created their project on the importance and utility of the development of a harness for draft horses.
Cooper loves horses and has her own riding horse, so exploring how the harness helped with farm and other work was an easy choice.
This is the third year students in grades six through 12 have created history projects and brought some of them to the Augusta competition. Last year, Andrews said the youngsters brought home seven first or second medals.
Sixth-graders have done projects on Rachel Carson for her environmental work, a founder of the first labor union, the inventer of the transistor, and the Telstar communications satellite.
“It’s all about doing extensive research,” Andrews said.