Stu­dents are learning the history of the places that surround them for a spe­cial research project on the Works Progress Adminis­tration.

Mannsville sixth-grade students are competing in the National History Day competition. They will first compe te regionally at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in March. If they qualify, they will advance to the state com­petition in May and the national competition in June at the University of Maryland.

"This is really practical," said group advisor Nellie Garone. "Now it's stuff they know, which brings history alive for them. They can go and see Norton Bridge." This year's theme is Turning Points, which has the group learning all they can about the WPA.

"I find it interesting the kids actually want to learn about buildings and the WPA days," said group ad­visor Justin Shaw. "They are having fun with it and enjoying what they are do­ing."

The project has students really excited to do research and learn more.

"They wanted people to have jobs, so they wouldn't be poor," Cassandra Harwell said.

In Mannsville, the school gym and the community center are among the buildings built by the WPA.

"The gym was built as a bomb shelter because it was World War II," Bradley Phillips said. "If we ever get in a war, we would be safe." They have also looked for other buildings in the area and are discovering that some do not exist anymore.

"There was a building out at Greasy Bend, but it was torn down," Trevor Carroll said.

The competition requires the use of both primar y (first-person) and secondary resources. The group has already put a callout in Oklahoma Living Magazine for people to send them information, and they have received things from across the state.

They are looking for information and pictures, as well as old tools to go into their final display for the competition.

"They want to tell the history of Oklahoma to other people because their parents or grandparents were in the WPA," Gus Peoples said.

By asking for information, the students are gaining skills in how to gather primary sources for their research.

"It's exciting because you don't know what will come in the mail, and it might be important," Alion Morgan said.

Also, Shylea Eberhart is doing an individual project on Edgar Waldo A Ingram, the founder of White Castle, which is considered the first fastfood restaurant in the country.

"I picked him because I saw the little hamburgers that are square and only 5 cents," she said.

She will have to give a speech on Ingram and answer judges' questions.

"I'm nervous, so I play with my hands and just have friends out there cheering me on," Eberhart said.

Anyone with information, photos or memorabilia they would like to share can email or call the school at (580) 371-2892.