Cultural fair runs in Poulsbo’s blood

POULSBO — Science, math, language arts, civics, genealogy.

One of these subjects does not occupy much time in the minds of seventh, eighth and ninth graders. But perhaps it should.

At Poulsbo Junior High School, studying family history is an annual event. The school’s Cultural Fair allows students a chance to ditch their textbooks and dig into their ancestral past, learning a unique history about themselves and their classmates.

“So few things they study have a personal connection,” said Katherine Campbell, who teaches the PJH Agate class. “I see all the research, all the interviews they do, and see them get excited about it. It sparks an interest in who they are.”

Beyond their own heritage, students also gain insight into each classmate’s unique — and often diverse — background.

“(Cultural Fair) allows them to see their peers as much more full-fledged people. It gives them an opportunity to see a greater perspective of who they’re with everyday,” Campbell said.

With the specific research needed for cultural fair projects, it’s no surprise that often, the entire family gets involved.

“As I teacher, I feel guilty because they will have and need help from parents,” Campbell said. “It’s a family project.”

For seventh grader Katie Herzog, the project did more than just get family involved.

Katie’s grandfather, Harold, was never vocal about his past — even with Katie’s father Phil.

But with the help of an author, Katie and family dug up the past of a fascinating, but humble man. It turns out that Harold Herzog was a pilot — from age 4.

“When (Harold) was 13, he build a flying contraption, like the Wright Brothers,” Katie said. “He attached skis to his feet.”

In the cold of winter in upstate New York, Harold Herzog tested his flying machine, until his father, who disapproved of his hobby, broke it. But he would not be deterred.

“He became a lieutenant and almost captain,” Katie said, “and flew 71 bombing missions (in World War II).”

Harold Herzog went on to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal and became a pilot for the now-defunct Pan-American Airlines. He flew for the airline for almost 30 years. Upon retiring, he built experimental ultra-light aircraft.

“He did all this without a college degree,” Katie said, amazed.

Harold lives with Nell, his wife of 60 years, and although he has stage two Alzheimer’s disease, is in good health.

Learning Harold’s history has changed Katie’s perspective of her grandfather, and her life.

“His experiences tell me that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she said.

Preserving history is one important aspect students take away from the cultural fair. But seventh grader Graham Peach touched another that directly links us to our past: that our ancestral history is in our blood — literally.

“I think (this project) answers why (my family has) always lived by the ocean, and have been ocean and river oriented people,” Graham said. “It’s hung over from our shipbuilding and sailing days.”

Peach researched two brothers in his lineage: his great-great-great grandfather and his great-great-great uncle. His project, entitled “New England Ship Builders and Sailors” chronicles John and Charles Dix.

“Charles would build the ships, and John would sail, and he sailed around the world,” Graham said.

John Dix began hauling raw materials from Greenland to Philadelphia, Penn. to make aluminum. Charles helped build the USS Roosevelt, which the famous Robert Perry captained.

“According to family legend, Robert asked for a steel hull, but neglected to pay for it,” Graham said, “and Charles went out of business.”

Graham said he believes learning about family history is crucial — but that learning from it is as well.

“I think its important to know (about ancestry) because history repeats itself,” he said. “We can better understand what happens today.”

Seventh grader Max Tomlinson looked more recently into his past — his own father’s life. With a project entitled “Cooking down South,” Tomlinson learned southern traditions he once only wondered about when his family would have chicken and dumplings, or when he’d hear his father talk with a southern accent.

Max’s father, Bill Tomlinson, grew up in Georgia and Alabama, until he was 19. For his presentation, Max brought in his family’s chicken and dumplings for his class to try. He also presented his class with some interesting southern factoids.

“I learned that barbecuing is as old as the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “(Americans of the revolutionary era) would have a battle and then celebrate with a barbecue.”

“Its cool to see what my dad grew up with,” Max said. I think it’s the same feeling the other kids in the class get.”

The disappearance of certain portions of history can be devastating, but, as seventh grader Allison Raszler learned, can also be avoided. One side of her family hails from a country that no longer exists.

Her project, entitled “My Family and Prussian Cuisine,” tells the story of how Allison’s great-great grandmother emigrated from Prussia to South Dakota in the early part of the 20th century, and brought with her a culture that still lives in the Raszler family today.

“I learned about what Prussia is, or was,” said Raszler. “(Prussia) was between Germany, Russia, and Poland.”

Her project’s theme is the aspect of Prussian history she said her family celebrates most.

“(Prussians) used a lot of dough and not much meat,” she said. “They just didn’t have the land they could put the animals on.”

Like her classmate Graham, Raszler said she believes that learning about ancestry can help teach present and future generations to avoid the mistakes of the past.

“Its important (to study ancestry) because (Prussia) was once there, and they had lots of wars, about land and government,” she said. “We can learn how to keep the United States under much better (care).”

Raszler said she notices a difference know when looking around at her classmates.

“I learned a lot about where all of us came from,” she said. “(My classmates) all look different now. It’s cool to know where you came from.”

Ultimately, Campbell said she sees the annual cultural fair as something everyone in North Kitsap should participate in.

“We register to vote, get our driver’s licence, and do cultural fair,” she said. “It’s a rite of passage.”

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