Malden 375 Essay Contest Enlightens Students on Industrial Revolution

In celebration of Malden’s 375th anniversary, students were given the opportunity to immerse themselves in local history while also showcasing their analytical skills through the Malden 375 Essay Contest. Created by the Malden Public Library,  Malden Historical Society, and Gerard Tannetta, the District’s Director of History, the essay contest allows students to explore history outside the bounds of their classrooms and be rewarded for their efforts. 

Students must answer a Document-Based Question (DBQ) about the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Malden residents during the 19th century. The DBQ prompt reads “To what extent did the lives of those who lived in Malden change as a result of the technological changes between 1820-1920?”

The topic of industrialization was chosen not only as a way to recognize the significance of Malden during the Industrial Revolution but also to coincide with what students are learning in school. “We reviewed the archives to find themes that both fit Malden and the Social Studies curriculum at the high school level. We settled with industrialization as it fits into the US1, US2, and World History curriculum and Malden has a rich history of it. We created a DBQ assignment using local Malden documents and I brought this to the Social Studies department,” Tannetta explained. 

Malden 375 Essay Contest flyer.

Essay contest finalist Raphael Orcino concurred with the goal of the contest, he said “throughout the year in my APUSH class, we were instructed to write in a way that would earn us points on a DBQ rubric. When writing my essay for the contest, I took a slightly different approach, still incorporating all recommended documents as in the APUSH DBQ (Complexity Point), but with a different formality, aiming to provide a more enjoyable reading experience. Additionally, as I wrote the essay, I discovered the extensive history of Malden and found it fascinating to recognize locations in Malden and understand their historical significance.” 

Tannetta continues by highlighting the importance of connecting what students learn in school to their real lives. “Social Studies students at Malden High regularly interact with primary source documents telling the story of the country and the world but it can feel removed from their everyday life. I hoped that bringing forward this assignment showed students just how much of a role Malden played in the growth of the country and to have events they learned about feel less distant,” Tannetta reiterates. 

Cash prizes were offered as an extra incentive for students to participate on top of expanding their knowledge of Malden, and on June 6th, the latest school committee meeting, the winners were announced. The finalists were Dagny Boswell, Sophie LeBlanc, Andy Liu, Raphael Orcino, Sarah Pham, and Kelly Ye. 

The final winner was Andy Liu, Sophie LeBlanc right behind him as runner-up, and the remaining four students as honorable mentions. 

Regardless of the placements, all students who participated in the essay contest were able to benefit greatly from this relatable learning experience. “I think this is a good opportunity for students because diving into the topics we learn in history but in the context of our city can be really beneficial. Putting what we were learning in class into a wider perspective was such a nice experience,” finalist Sophie LeBlanc concludes. 

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