GLEN ELLYN – As children of Polish immigrants, Hadley Junior High School seventh-graders Kacper Lazinski, Jacob Kowalczyk and Marcel Slowikowski knew about Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland.
But they wanted to made sure other people knew him as well as part of a problem-based learning project on how to raise awareness of historic figures or events, similar to how the hit play "Hamilton" has made more people know about the life and accomplishments of Alexander Hamilton.
They decided to create a podcast on Kosciuszko. Joining them in their efforts was fellow Hadley seven-grade student J.D. Thompson.
"It's a bilingual podcast," Kacper said. "Part of it is in English, and then it's translated into Polish so that both communities have an understanding of what we are trying to teach."
The students also presented an overview of their project to a panel of experts, including Glen Ellyn Historical Society Executive Director Karen Hall. Marcel said they plan to contact some Polish radio stations in the area to find out if they would be interested in airing the podcast.
"He's not known very well, so we just wanted to expand everyone's knowledge about him," Kacper said. "He's an unknown war hero."
Jacob has a good grasp of the Polish language, which helped him in doing the podcast.
"When I was younger, I only spoke Polish," he said. "But when I grew up, I went to English school, and that made me forget some of the Polish words that I learned because I constantly spoke English."
Kacper was born in Poland, coming to the United States when he was about 2.5 years old.
"I would say that making this podcast was just a fun experience because we got to use both of our languages equally," he said.
Annie Kane, a problem-based learning coach at Hadley, was impressed with their efforts.
"I didn't know about Kosciuszko until they started the project, and believe it or not, I have some Polish heritage," Kane said. "So there was a hole in my knowledge as well. It's amazing what they did and the enthusiasm they brought to it."