You can’t change the past, but you can discuss big changes that seriously affected history.
That’s just what a group of eighth grade girls in Granville did with their recent participation in National History Day Contest. The seven students focused on different topics to demonstrate this year’s theme: a turning point in American history.
The project, overseen by English teacher Ann O’Brien, Library Media Specialist Mara McCarthy and social studies teacher Allison VanGuilder, was incorporated into an interdisciplinary unit for honors English and social studies.
“Not only do they have to do authentic research, but aside from academic aspects it gives them self confidence,” McCarthy said of the project.
Out of a class of 28 students, the teachers used regional-level judging format to pick a select few— Rachel Bartholomew, Molly O’Brien, Sophia-Mae Scott, Avery Roberts, Lauren Bucciero, Brianna Thomas and Zoe Paige— to compete with either an historical paper, a documentary, a website, an individual performance or a group performance.
Roberts won first place for her paper describing how the Watergate scandal weakened the presidency, while Scott and Thomas came in second for their performance about women’s suffrage. Bartholomew and Molly O’Brien came in third for their website about how the Great Migration during World War II impacted American Music, and Bucciero also placed third for her research paper on the Homestead Acts and Expansion of the West.
O’Brien said the fact that the girls made it to the New York State Museum for the regional competition, which was completely filled, and presented and defended their findings in front of judges was an award in itself.
“In doing it with the whole class of 28 students, to be able to pick seven students and send them to regionals is impressive. To have them still be great friends and still want to revise, go on and do it again is a strong compliment to them as individuals,” she said.
Though none of them placed at the statewide competition in Cooperstown, the girls all expressed enthusiasm about the event and said it was something they’d want to do again.
“The requirements were so complex like nothing we’ve done before. It gave us good experience and good preparation; we’ll have to write so many papers like that in college. It was great as a classroom assignment because then we were all striving to be chosen and go on,” Paige said, as the others piped in with similar sentiments.
Their success was especially rewarding as the students they were up against came from schools that were so immersed in National History Day that some even have it in their curriculum. O’Brien saw many benefits to the competition.
“It promotes the ability to compile and organize, time management, using school databases, authentic research and checking for accuracy. They’re setting the path toward being able to do that with more finesse,” she said, adding that it was rewarding the girls were so excited about their work.
“That’s one of the best comments. You get together with colleagues to put together something relevant for them, and to hear them say they want to do it again, it doesn’t get much better than that,” she said.
Because of the girls enthusiasm the teachers hope to set up National History Day as an after school club next year, so they can devote more time to it.