Middle schoolers take Norman Borlaug’s story to national competition

After beating out teams on the local, regional and state levels, three Twin Cities area students will be heading to a national history project competition by telling the story of Minnesota’s ultimate agricultural pioneer: Norman Borlaug.

Audrey Faricy, Sebastian Helgeson and Sruthi Subramanian leave for the University of Maryland later this month for the final event of National History Day, which is an inter-disciplinary research project competition for students in grades 6-12. Participating students were asked to pick a topic that interests them and then link that topic to someone who stood for that belief.

The group of eighth grade students at Roseville’s Parkview Center School created a 10-minute video detailing Borlaug’s fight to reduce world hunger through agricultural innovation in seed breeding. From his time at the University of Minnesota to revolutionizing wheat fields in Mexico and finally the Green Revolution in South Asia, the group chronicled Borlaug’s extraordinary accomplishments.

“We chose to do our project on him because we felt that he was underappreciated as a humanitarian grower and somehow wanted to pay respect to him because many people don’t really know who he is,” Helgeson said.

It appears the group has done an exceptional job of that, as their project is now one of the few remaining in the nation. Now in the final stages of preparation before leaving for College Park, Md., it is an outcome they didn’t expect, according to Subramanian.

“We thought we could probably make it to regionals and that would be it. That definitely didn’t happen,” she said.

While spending countless hours creating and revising the documentary, Faricy said they have enjoyed learning about the world of agriculture through Borlaug’s accomplishments.

“If you asked us about agriculture as a career before, I would have said no because I didn’t understand all of the science behind it,” Faricy said. “It has been fun learning about the genetics and Norman Borlaug’s work to keep our food in good supply.”

Faricy, Helgeson and Subramanian reached out to outside sources in addition to doing their own research for the project. The team spoke with a professor at Concordia University in St. Paul who specialized in the African perspective of the Green Revolution, as well as a seed breeder in India with knowledge of how crossbreeding has affected today’s scientists.

With the team still in competition, they are not allowed to release their video to the public, but follow us on Twitter at @mncorn or Facebook at ‘Minnesota Corn’ to see it once it is available later this month.

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