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TPWD News Release — July 6, 2004

Falfurrias Students Use Goliad as Springboard to Smithsonian

AUSTIN, Texas — Three Falfurrias High School students took their award- winning history project to the top this summer to compete at the National Championship of the National History Day Program in Washington D.C.

The three students Shane Wilson and Christopher Morales, both 16, and Marlene Morales, 14, along with their faculty sponsor Sharon Wilson visited Goliad State Park in December to do research about the influence that the Spanish missions had upon the development of the modern day cattle industry. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department State Park employees Douglas Plant and Beth Ellis gave the students tours of Mission Nuestra Senora del Espiritu Santo de Zuniga and Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario and worked with them to understand the role of the mission as a precursor to today’s cattle industry.

After extensive research, the students then compiled written papers, bibliographies, and pictures into an exhibit. The project was named, "The Open Range, Cattle and a Mission: Our Ranching Heritage." They competed on local, regional and state levels and placed first at each competition.

"The students were extremely excited to win at each level," Wilson said. "I think it made them work harder each time."

This earned them the opportunity to compete at the national level on June 13-17, at the University of Maryland near Washington D.C. The title and theme of the competition this year was "Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History."

The students’ exhibit placed 12th out of 90 in the Senior Group Exhibits category at the national competition. They were also asked to feature their exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on June 16. The students said they were thrilled for theirs to be one of nine exhibits featured out of the 2,000 total competing exhibits. They said having their work displayed at the Smithsonian was as important an honor as winning a national award.

"The National Museum of American History is a world-class museum and not many people have the opportunity to have their work displayed there," Shane Wilson said.

Goliad State Park has requested that the students to display their award-winning exhibit in the park upon their return from Washington D.C.

Falfurrias High School has competed in National History Day for nine years. The school has a curriculum focused on the history of South Texas and they encourage students to take an interest in their own history. All students enrolled in social studies must do a project as part of their course work. The top three projects in each division then advance to regional competition. FHS students have advanced to the state competition for nine consecutive years and the national competition for six consecutive years. FHS students have worked with the State Park system on two other occasions involving projects.

The National History Day program has promoted systemic educational reform related to the teaching and learning of history in America’s schools for more than 25 years.