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03-24-03: St. Henry eighth-graders build on American history lessons
The Daily Standard
    ST. HENRY - Two thousand Popsicle sticks and 68 hours of tedious work is what it takes to build a replica of Mount Vernon.
    That's what St. Henry eighth-graders Sarah Osterholt and Beth Hemmelgarn found when completing the project for their American History class. The girls, along with the rest of the eighth-grade class traveling next month to Washington, D.C., were required to research, write papers, give speeches and make replica buildings of the nation'  monuments.
    "The replicas are certainly the best we've ever had. It's not just me; other teachers have commented to me how really good all these replica buildings and shrines are this year, American history teacher Mike Eyink told The Daily Standard last week in his classroom.
    Eyink's classroom is crowded with replicas of Mount Vernon, the Capitol, White House, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other D.C. landmarks as well as a few student-created board games.
    The three-dimensional buildings are not small, some measuring two feet tall by three feet wide and most are mounted on landscaped display boards.
    Several hours were put into the research and construction of each piece, such as with the Mount Vernon creation.
    "We cut the end off the sticks for the roof and used the middles for the outside walls," Osterholt said.
    "And, big sticks for the shutters and toothpicks for the window panes," Hemmelgarn added.
    The pole from the cupola is a glue stick topped with a white marble.  
    Osterholt's dad Mike helped with dimensions and the girls took it from there.
    "I always encourage parents to get involved with school projects and the replicas is a great one to get involved in," said Eyink, who began the D.C. projects and trips 18 years ago and says he never gets tired of Washington.
    Another replica, Janel Evers' Immaculate Shrine, incorporates Styrofoam painted to resemble stone and real stained glass windows that Marleen Evers helped her daughter design. Janel's dad Dan also gets an assist for developing the blueprint design of the cathedral, which took her 26 hours to build.
    "Not only did Janel do a great job on a beautiful building, but it lights up," Eyink said as he plugged in the cord lighting up the stained glass.
    Janel Evers said she chose the Immaculate Shrine because earlier in the year she did a report on it. "And, besides, I think it's cool looking," she said.
    Matthew Niekamp chose the Pentagon because he thought it would be easy to build.
    "But, it wasn't. All those corners are 54-degree angles and it was hard to get them to fit. They're stuck together with hot glue, which dries really fast, so my mom glued and I fit them together," Niekamp said, adding he'd like to put his creation with a model train set he and his dad are planning to build someday.
    Corey Knapke and Kyle Rinderle agreed the Capitol is the most prestigious building in Washington and decided they'd invest their time (41 hours) designing a very stable, clean-lined building.
    "Actually, their building is earthquake-proof. It was out in the hallway on a table that fell. But it was not damaged," Eyink said.
    Knapke said he thinks the real Capitol "really stands out because it's so bold."
    It was during the Capitol construction that the boys learned to use a lathe as taught by Rinderle's dad Jeff.
    "It was pretty neat. But one thing we learned right away was to keep your mouth closed when you're using a lathe," Rinderle said.
    Knapke's dad Tim helped draw the many little windows using CAD and printing them on sticky paper.
    "It probably would have taken us months to do the windows otherwise," Knapke said.
    The replicas are part of a five-part assignment Eyink requires throughout the school year that includes typed essays, enactment by the students of a particular cabinet post or federal agency, board game creations and oral presentations.
    Once in Washington, students will put their knowledge to work as they act as tour guides for their class at certain monuments.
    In the five-page outline that Eyink provides the students as a starting point for their projects, he asks the students to ask themselves as they complete the assignments on the builders and buildings of the nation: "Is minimum (effort) good enough for me?"


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