Orphan Train Rider

Orphan Train Rider
Oliver Nordmark - Age 15 - Esbon KS

Monday, May 17, 2010


I recently had the pleasure of spending time with a delightful young lady, Camille Fontenelle, of Newark, Delaware who competed this year in Delaware’s NATIONAL HISTORY DAY and was chosen to represent Delaware at the National Competition in June. Her topic was The Orphan Train Movement and she graciously consented to an interview for my Blog.

1. Each year, the National History Day Project chooses a category which students must make sure their topics fit into. What was this year’s category and what lead you to choose the ORPHAN TRAIN MOVEMENT?

This year’s category was INNOVATION IN HISTORY – IMPACT AND CHANGE. I chose the Orphan Train Movement because I was trying to find something that was about people and what they did to impact and change history. I had read the book RODZINA by Karen Cushman and it was so interesting and in the back of the book she had all this information about the Orphan Trains. So I was thinking, “This could be Impact and Change!” Then I got the PBS movie about the Orphan Trains to see if this was going to fit and it did so I just totally went with it.

2. I’ve seen student projects that are informational three fold displays but you chose instead to do a Dramatic Presentation. Why was that?

Well, I had done it before and I liked acting. I could have done an exhibit but I really don’t like doing exhibits – I don’t consider myself a very artistic person when it comes to putting portfolios together, so I preferred to do something I knew I was good at, so I did a dramatic presentation.

3. What type of research was involved?

I started with the documentary, then I tried to see just what was the CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY and I found their website and then I looked at the Historical Societies. Illinois has a whole list of orphan train stories and records and newspaper articles. I tried to see what was online and contacted people from there. I contacted the Historical Societies of NJ, NY, KS and NE and I also sent a letter to the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, KS and received information from that.

4. Tell me about your experiences competing so far this year in the National History Day Project.

We had two people from my school compete in the Dramatic Presentation category this year – me and my friend – so we assembled and we got ready and kind of hyperventilated a little and then cheered each other on and went for it to see what would happen.

5. So were students there from all over Delaware?

Yes, there were people from Wilmington Christian, Pike Creek, Newark High…quite a bit of schools were represented there.

6. And so now you go on to Nationals! Where will that be held?

Yes! That is scheduled for four days in June – the 13th-17th at the University of Maryland in College Park.

7. So you’ll be competing in the Dramatic Presentation category against students from around the country who also won in their states? How many students do you think you’ll be competing against?

Yes, there will probably be over 100 students since each state can send two students and students from Guam compete too.

8. Is there a chance that there might be other students doing the same topic – The Orphan Trains?

There might be but I doubt it since the Orphan Trains is kind of an obscure topic. Sometimes the more obscure topics don’t get as much recognition, probably because the judges don’t have as much information on the topic and it’s harder for them to judge you.

9. How much time do you have to give your presentation…is there a certain time allotment?

Yes, it can’t be more than 10 minutes!

That’s not much time, Camille, to get all the information and all the feelings and repercussions of the Orphan Train Movement across to the judges, but I love your approach and I can see that you’ve worked really hard to accomplish just that with your presentation. I wish you the BEST OF LUCK – 250,000 children (orphan train riders) will be rooting for you in June!


Yaya' s Home said...

I'm so glad to see that the story of the Orphan Trains is gaining more exposure, even from those who are younger. It seems to me that the Orphan Trains had a lasting effect on our nation in many more ways than we usually think about. Awesome interview. Congratulations to Camille.

~ Yaya
Yaya's Home

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Congratulations Camille! Best wishes at the National competition! Donna, I'm really enjoying your books! I put a little thank you not and a link on my blog today. Thanks again for such a great set of books.