HGHII Reform Fair

Varsha Bhargava ‘23

Students lugged large trifolds through the crowded hallways, carefully avoiding folded corners or scuffs on their posters. These posters held within them the most persuasive, creative, and proactive words and images known to Honors Global History freshmen students at Ridge High School. They held the key to raising grades at the end of the second marking period and to gaining much desired extra credit.


Previously, on Thursday, January 2, 2020 (the first day back from winter break), the big project was introduced: the Honors Global History Reform Fair project. In this project, each class was split up into eight groups, with about two to four students in each group. Each group got to choose a reform topic to research and present.


There were four social reforms and four political reforms offered. The social reforms included: the Abolition Movement, Worker’s Rights (Labor Unions), Child Labor, and Living Conditions in Cities. The political reforms were: the Chartist Movement, Women’s Suffrage, Home Rule for Ireland, and Mexico’s Independence Movement.


The project itself had four parts. First was the research: students had to independently write up about ten to twenty pages of notes about their topic in preparation for the hands-on project itself. Second, the students collaborated to put together a persuasive trifold poster, a handout, and a donation box for the presentation, as well as planned out what food and incentives they would bring in to convince their peers to donate to them. Third, the students set up their presentations to present them to their peers and to their teacher. And fourth, each student had to write a reflection on the project about the most persuasive group in the opposite category (other than themselves, of course!). For example, if the student presented a social reform, they would have to write about a political reform, and vice versa.


During the fair itself, which spanned two days (Thursday, January 23, 2020, and Friday, January 24, 2020), the main objective of every group was to persuade their classmates to join their movement. You would “join” a movement by donating to their cause. Each group was split in half: on one day, one pair would be presenting, and the other pair would be visiting other presentations. The pairs would then switch off the next day. The pair that visited other presentations would get three fake dollars each, which they could donate to any three causes of their choice. The social group and the political group who received the most “money” would gain extra credit points, along with the social group and the political group whose topics were most written about in the reflection papers.


The event overall got a positive response from students, as they got fed (with bribes), got to energetically yell across the classroom, as well as dressed up and persuade their friends to join their movement. It was one of the less stressful assessments in the class since the presentations were more casual in lieu of regulated tests with strict rubrics.


However, one concern was voiced by multiple students, a suggestion in regards to the layout of the classroom during the fair. The posters were somewhat thrown haphazardly around the room. Posters around the edges of the classroom were difficult to approach since the rows of chairs were in their usual positions, causing students to have to clamber over the seats and desks to make their way to other presentations. A suggestion was to arrange the desks in a Socratic seminar format, creating a big outer circle of desks to place the posters on, and having the visitors roam in the middle. This would create a larger, less crowded space for people to get the most out of their experience.


Another point brought up was about the donations to each cause. A lot of students were creating deals, even before viewing the projects, that sounded something like this, “Hey, I’ll vote for you, if you vote for me,” and other variations of the same dialogue. This raised concern, as it meant that the extra credit prize would turn into a popularity contest, rather than being solely based on how much effort people put into their presentations and speeches.


A solution offered was to eliminate the extra credit portion of the project altogether, but it was pointed out that without this incentive, the fair would not be as fun. Concerns arose that the students  would not do their best work or go above and beyond to win their friends’ votes, and fun parts of the project, such as bringing in snacks, or starting raffles, would disappear from the day of fun.


However, in the end, this dilemma reflects the realities of many real-life business deals.People often end up choosing sides in favor of their friends or business interests, rather than for the good of the people.


All in all, the HGH Reform Fair project was a great opportunity for honors students to let loose and complete an assessment without the stress of a Scantron and a quiet classroom. The project educated the students about many different social and political reforms during the Industrial Revolution and allowed them to enjoy themselves in a normally stressful honors class.