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Chautauqua events allow American Studies students to display debate and research skills

At least 150 American Studies students at McHenry East and McHenry West staged Chautauqua events in November at each school that featured students taking on notable characters from past and present to debate current issues such as gun control and immigration.

The McHenry East Chautauqua took place Nov. 29-30 while the McHenry West event was held Nov. 15-16. In both events, students took on famous personas, researched topics and debated policy recommendations.

They also presented entertaining skits in between debates that featured students performing songs and dances. At both schools, other classes were invited to watch during the two-day event.

A former American Studies history teacher Dianne Flint came up with the idea to use Chautauqua as a name for the project since historically the term was used to describe popular meeting events throughout the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The term itself is Native American and implies a meeting of minds, said Ashley Diedrich, an American Studies English teacher at West Campus.

Diedrich, along with Brittany Probst, American Studies English, Jon Niemic, American Studies history, and Daniel Glick, American Studies history, organized the West Campus Chautauqua event. At East Campus, American Studies English teacher Marla Currie and Abigail Bilinski, American Studies history teacher, presented the event.

Visitors at West Campus may have seen students portraying John Lennon and Donald Trump debating immigration with J. Edgar Hoover and Nancy Drew, or Frank Sinatra and Clint Eastwood debating gun control with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sacagawea.

Visitors at East Campus may have seen Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder talking about legalizing marijuana and Walt Disney and Michelle Obama discussing minimum wage.

Other issues discussed over the two-day Chautauqua include maternity and paternity rights, abortion, business rights and privacy rights, and police body cameras.

American Studies students had to not only research the topic but also research their character to find out how that person may have felt about a particular issue. Students not only take on their character’s personality but dress up as well.

“They really have to know their character,” Probst said.

Teachers said they were proud of the work that went into Chautauqua. In addition to working on research skills, Chautauqua allows students a chance to learn about how to present different points of view in a calm and rational way.

“We need to teach our students how to properly engage with each other,”

Diedrich said.

At East, students who participated were:

Sheili Alcantara-Diaz

Kyle Amick

Daniel Barranco

Mason Buckun

Matt Callahan

Amanda Caponigro

Erin Clements

Aya Colby

Jacob Cowgill

Karsen Cox

Chloe Cuzman

Presley Diakow

Jake Diedrich

Eric Dowd

Elizabeth Emmert

Tyler Fees

Maria Fernandez

Sean Fischler

Savannah Foster  

Addison Frank

Julie Gonzales,
Dan Hallaert

Ivan Hernandez

Kati Howk

Truman Keppy

Timmy Lumber

Nathan Mercure

Laura Morales-Garcia

Isaac Obrion

Jorge Perez-Rubio

Reis Peterson

Ailton Rodriguez

Destiny Roman  

Piotr Rusin

Kevin Sandoval-Chavez

Allison Schmitt

Mason Schuelke

Britney Seitz

Matt Sieverin

Ryan Theiler

Xander Welch

Elaine Wolter

Brii Zeiger

Chris Zieba.


Students who participated at West Campus were:

Natallia Anderson

Liberty Bone

Jared Bysiek

Jennifer Castro

Summer Cassidy

Jocelyn Currie

Jason Connor

Stacey Correra

Samantha Cutler

Alyssia Dahlquist

Connor Dick

Kylie Domann

Cooper Donahoe

Esteban Dorado

Hunter Dufield

Matt Ezop

Sarah Fergus

Julia Finch

Carter Foat

Kennedy Gierman

Gage Gottstein

Tyler Groleau

Kevin Guzman

Litzy Hernandez- Zarate

Kyle Hoskins

Brennan Huemann

Allie Jacobsen

Blake Januk

Carter Koura

Bergen Langfeld

Melanie Leutner

Liz Licona

Gavin Lobbins

Brett Loeding

Madison Loewe

Brianna Longines Reyes

Ryan Lopez

Gisselle Martinez- Zapata

Holly Maye

Steven Melvin

Jacqueline Mendez

Sammie Mueller

Brooke Nett

Ryan Oeffling

Shane Pakula

Ariel Pala

Matt Patten

Ryan Peters

Raphael Rosales

Nate Rubin

Libby Rydz

Iris Salas

Sarina Sangabriel

Saul Saucedo

Nolan Shannon

Adam Shattuck

Chris Siragusa

Amanda Sikula

Anna Spatol

Brad Szamlewski

Ben Tapia

Brian Taylor

Mayanna Tomaszewski

Simon Tzimpas

Jordan Vargas

Rodrigo Vargas

Abby Wikman

Ray (Kenneth) Zulman