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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow BHS students taking Barbie to D.C.

BHS students taking Barbie to D.C.

A critical look at Barbie and history won three Baker High School students a trip to Washington, D.C. ().
A critical look at Barbie and history won three Baker High School students a trip to Washington, D.C. ().

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

She may be just a plastic doll with cool clothes, nice digs and a longtime boyfriend. But to three Baker High School sophomores, she's their cross-country ticket to this summer's National History Day competition.

In February, Erin Brookshire, Tanya Denne and Anne Hensley used their fathers' power tools to create a homemade version of Barbie's Dream House. On Saturday, the exhibit won the statewide competition in Salem, qualifying the girls for the national competition June 9-13 in College Park, Md.

In addition, Heather Irby qualified nationally by finishing second in the state with her talk entitled "A Revolution in History: The National FFA Organization."

The three who created the Barbie exhibit took time out Monday afternoon from what is not a traditional Barbie activity — softball practice — to talk about why they chose Barbie as a revolutionary figure ("Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History" was the theme for this year's competition.).

In fact, it was a doubleheader against Riverside High School Saturday that kept Brookshire and Hensley from attending Oregon's History Day competition. Denne, who regularly plays shortstop for the Bulldogs, was the only one of the group who made the trip to Salem. She was accompanied by her mother, Cindy.

Denne noted that all three played with their Barbies as young girls — she often invited her younger brother, Tanner, to play with her and her friends — and that Barbie pointed her toward career possibilities even at a young age.

"She's done just about every occupation there is," Denne said, from model to president. "She projects the image that people can be anything they want to be. I loved Barbie."

Hensley said the three included in their presentation Saturday a recent opinion piece by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that assigned Barbie and Ken gender roles in the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals.

"Barbie is referred to as the intelligent, ethical woman who cares about her colleagues getting shafted," the three wrote, paraphrasing Dowd. "Ken is portrayed in this gender schism as more concerned about inflated assets."

"We (three) usually get recognition for our sports achievements," Hensley said. "It was nice to do something academic that got attention."

Brookshire said a trip to Maryland was the last thing on the girls' minds when they first got the idea to build their wooden display and decorate it with their own dolls and accessories and those they'd borrowed from friends.

"It started out as a project we didn't think would go anywhere," she said. "We just wanted to beat everyone in the class, not everyone in the state."

Judges at the district level gave the project a grade of "excellent," but at the state competition, the Barbie exhibit received an even loftier "superior" rating.

"Your willingness to critically think about Barbie from a positive perspective is impressive and thought-provoking," one judge wrote. "Does Barbie change society, or is Barbie changed by society?"

"As the participants probably know, Barbie has received a great deal of flack from feminist groups and you dealt with that nicely," another judge wrote. "I like thought-provoking projects, and your feeling that Barbie has withstood the test of time and criticism is important."

In all, 11 BHS students — all under the direction of history teacher Cammy Warner — qualified for the state competition. Debby Heckman and Anna Rodgers completed an exhibit on Philippe Pinel, a mental health reformer. Jill Berryman, Skye Forsgren, Whitney Hoopes, Melissa MacManiman and Leah Michel entered "Crime Lab: The Revolution of Crime Fighting."

The Barbie exhibit's success follows another BHS entry that made it all the way to the national competition. Last year, Brett Chapman, Steven Collins and Jed Rembold flew to College Park on the strength of their exhibit, "Star Wars: A Frontier in the Motion Picture Industry."

The three did not place nationally.

Already, Denne said, the three girls are mounting a fund-raising effort. She plans to write to Mattel, Barbie's manufacturer, to inquire if the toymaker would like to help fund the cost for the publicity their entry will generate.

In addition, she said, a fund for the girls' trip has been established at Pioneer Bank.

 
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