Students search for roots at culture fair
June 10, 2008 · Updated 5:51 PM
"KINGSTON - Scott Shawcroft brought a painting made by his great-great grandfather. Martin Baisa brought an old glass milk bottle. Mike Gentry brought an electric guitar, and during spare moments during Wednesday's Kingston Junior High cultural fair you could find Gentry and some of his friends strumming. Wednesday's cultural fair was the the result of more than a month of work for Kingston Junior High's eighth graders. For it, the students explored the history of their own families, their own communities and their own interests. Students had to create display boards for the fair, and Wednesday night found the gym filled with tables, and those tables topped with display boards. The range of subjects was as great as the range of students. Some were covered with maps, some with photographs. One display, dedicated to rock n'roll, was titled Praise the Loud. Nearby was Scott Shawcroft's display. Shawcroft, 15, explored his own family history for his display and on the table sat translated versions of his great-great grandfather's letters. That great-great grandfather was named Philipp Brand, and came from Germany to Mercer Island, by way of New York and North Dakota, around 1890. I knew my dad had these, Shawcroft said of the translated letters and photos. I thought It'd be a cool idea. I knew Brand wrote letters, but didn't know what they were about. With the aid of those letters and other research, Shawcroft learned that Phillpp Brand was a talented carpenter; one photograph shows him standing in a treehouse he built with his own hands. Brand, Shawcroft learned, was never out of work, even during the Depression. Brand worked in Seattle after the great Seattle fire. He helped rebuild the city, Shawcroft said. Brand, Shawcroft also learned, woke up at a quarter to five each morning to swim in Lake Washington. He didn't go easy on himself, Shawcroft said. Shawcroft was not the only student to explore his own family history. Fellow eighth-grader Melissa Dieckman interviewed her own family and went through pictures to find out more about her own family's past. She unearthed her great-grandmother's marriage license from 1889, which is now enclosed in glass after being written out, mostly in pencil, more than 100 years ago. Other objects Dieckman brought with her including a necklace passed from her great-grandmother to her grandmother to her mother, who wore the necklace during her wedding. I didn't know that much about my family until I decided to do this project about them, Dieckman said. One row over was Martin Baisa, who did a story on his grandparents' dairy farm in Canada. They would always tell stories about the farm, Baisa recalled, so for his project he encouraged them to do so. I just wanted to learn more about it, he said. His grandparents' farm, Baisa said, was one of the first ever to have a stainless-steel milk tanker truck. Baisa e-mailed and interviewed his grandparents. He learned that his grandfather, when cleaning up after the cows, would clank his shovel against the hard ground so the cows wouldn't become surprised by his presence and kick him in the head. If they would have kicked him, he would have been dead, Baisa said. He enjoyed the project. I got to hang around with relatives and learn something in the process, he said. Baisa wanted to bring one of the bottles from the farm, he said, but his mother wouldn't let him. There were only six left with the name inscribed in the bottom, and she didn't want any to get broken. So he brought another old bottle, not from his grandparents' farm, instead. The loudest display may have been Mike Gentry's. Gentry did his project on heavy metal, and brought his electric guitar along. It's just what I'm into right now, said Gentry. He did research for the project on some of his favorite bands and musicians (Metallica and Nirvana among them), and as the culture fair continued, he and his friends took turns playing the guitar. He has been working on a couple of songs especially, Gentry said: Enter Sandman by Metallica, and Bark At the Moon by Ozzie Osborne. "