APUSH explores new mediums

Taking inspiration from the Magic School Bus and the Marvel Avengers series, AP United States History students were influenced by a plethora of topics to spin into creative narratives for the annual Diamond Bar High School APUSH plays. 

Going on its ninth year, the plays feature a broad array of themes covered in the Manifest Destiny unit of the APUSH class, which makes up the largest portion of the AP exam. History teacher Lindsay Arnold created the plays as a way to transform the unit from a jumble of events into a more cohesive storyline, hoping to improve her students’ understanding and recollection of the material. 

“Nine years ago, I got this crazy idea to create this really big project that I thought would be really fun for the kids to do,” Arnold said via email. “When I was a student here at Diamond Bar a long time ago, I was a performing arts student, and so I decided [to] make a play.”

APUSH students get three weeks to prepare group plays, with their teams consisting of script writers, props and costume makers, video editors and actors. Due to the ongoing construction at the Golden Horseshoe and COVID-19 concerns, the plays are being filmed this year and being shown to different history classes starting Nov. 4. 

Although Arnold created the plays to help students retain the information for their AP tests, her favorite part of the APUSH plays is seeing the different personalities of her students shine through. Arnold said she was impressed by the creativity of her students the first year these plays were conducted, and this sense of amazement only grew over time as the plays became more elaborate.

“This unit has gone from one of my lowest scoring units on the AP exam to one of my higher scoring units on the AP exam but in all honesty, it’s not why I do the projects anymore,” she said. “I do it because I think it is just such a great experience for my classes to go through; it has such great lessons for leadership.”

Junior Sarai Garcia, who is in APUSH teacher Anthony Poullard’s class, said the plays allowed her to retain the details of the unit in a challenging yet creative way. The most difficult part was integrating outside information, such as the names and dates of historical figures and events, into the performance. 

“Sneakily sliding in OI’s and changing character names was a bit challenging but honestly once we got the ball rolling, the parallels presented themselves nicely,” Garcia said via Instagram. “Because we already understood the details of Manifest Destiny, it was satisfying to plug it in cleverly.”

In addition, she said the plays gave her an opportunity to get to know herself better and improve her leadership skills.

“I’ve always thought myself to be too stern with people and a bit too bossy, but when managing a larger group of people, I was surprised that I actually had to teach myself to amp up the in-charge energy,” Garcia said. “But I think once we got going, everyone started getting in the mood and we had a lot more fun!”