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Jasper County Tribune

Not just for dorks

Baxter youth explore history, Iowa through new club

BAXTER – When Morgan Kielly was in elementary school, it was not an uncommon sight to find her in front of the television after she got home from school.

But unlike most children, the Baxter resident was not watching the latest episode of “Spongebob Squarepants” or “Wizards of Waverly Place.” She was watching Don Wildman share interesting and unusual artifacts on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, and developing a love for the stories of the past.

Coincidentally, as soon as Kielly got into high school, a history club was formed at Baxter Community School. And she knew it was time to share her love for history with her classmates, family and the rest of the community.

“It was on our daily announcement that goes out to the whole school every day. I saw it and said, ‘sure.’ The morning of the first meeting, I said, ‘Jannie (Gowdy)’ come to history club with me,” the Baxter High School freshman said. “She came, and it started from there.”

Since the club formed in September, Jamie Zabel, middle and high school social studies teacher and club adviser, Kielly and Gowdy have grown the Baxter History Club from two members to six. In only a couple months, the group has dived into a variety of different moments in history, both on a local and global level.

To help attract new members, expand their opportunities for learning and share their knowledge with the rest of the community, the self-funded club decided to organize a one-night, fundraising event. They hope this event will show Baxter why history is fun.

“A lot of people think (history) is a dorky thing to study. We want to show them it is not dorky, it is kind of fun,” Gowdy said. “We are going to have 40s night club. We are going to dress up like that. We are going to have someone on stage lip syncing an old song, or maybe have the band play.”

The event, which will begins at 5:30 p.m. March 24 at school’s east gym, will be headlined by a variety of skits written by the club members. The skits, performed by students and volunteers, will play out scenes to present interesting historical facts to the audience.

While some skits are fictional and others reflect true adaptations of what happened, the members said event patrons learn something new about Iowa history, from railroad heroine Kate Shelley to the Buddy Holly plane crash.

“My first meeting, they were like, ‘Hey, we are writing these scripts, Write about Mark Twain.’ I was like, ‘Woah, this is a little fast,’” sophomore Maya Phelps said. “That really sparked my interest. The only guideline was make it relate to Iowa and about your character. We got to use history but also used our own creative ideas.”

In addition to the scripts, the club has been working on making a 30 to 40 minute-long documentary about the home front of World War II. From personal accounts with Jasper County residents who were alive during this time frame to the information regularly found in history books, the documentary aims to show how Jasper County was directly affected by the second world war.

“We went from all the way in the 1920s to the end of World War II. That is what we started with and we starting narrowing it down. That is too much to do. So we talked about minorities, this and that. So we decided on the home front of World War II,” Phelps said. “That talks about women working in factories.”

While the club members said both the skits and the documentary has required a lot of work and time researching, writing and editing, they are enjoyed every minute of it. They said they are excited to share the finished product with the community.

“It is exciting when kids get into history,” Zabel said. “As a teacher, to turn kids loose and see what they do at the end, it is amazing. For these kids, always did these things on their own and went above and beyond. Now, we get to see them do it outside of school in a topic they really like.”

There will also be ice cream and cookies served at the event.

Admission costs $5 for adults, $3 for children. There will also be a silent auction held at the event.

“The school has so many things it is already paying for,” the social studies teacher said. “We decided the best way to finance our club is to fundraise and do this kind of stuff. We are not sure what we are going to do with the money. Hopefully, field trips in the future.”

For more information about the event, call the school at 641-227-3103 or email

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at

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