This week, many Connecticut teachers and students will be returning to the classroom. We are looking forward to another exciting year working with you!
This year, National History Day (NHD) is introducing a brand new theme, Breaking Barriers in History. The NHD annual theme serves as a lens for students to explore the past and focus their research and analysis. You can download this year’s theme book HERE. The theme narrative is on Pages 5-6. That document is an important one to share with students. Connecticut History Day staff and volunteers are also glad to come and do a Theme Workshop in your classroom at no charge.
Instead of rewriting the theme narrative, I’d like to offer some suggestions and ideas for exploring this year’s Annual Theme.
Students often choose topics that they are familiar with and that feel “safe" because they have been covered in the classroom. Encourage students to consider local topics. Each year, CHD staff gathers ideas from museum and history colleagues that results in 30+ page list of Connecticut topics related to the Annual Theme. For every national trend, a local example can be found. We post that list HERE. Connecticuthistory.org is a great place to search for potential topics.
If students want to explore a well-known topic, encourage them to think creatively. I am sure this year we will see a lot of Jackie Robinson projects about how he broke the color barrier in baseball. What about Jackie Robinson’s involvement in the establishment of Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution located in Harlem? Did Jackie Robinson break any barriers by refusing to move to the back of an Army bus? Did baseball executive Branch Rickey has any role in breaking the color barrier in baseball? Instead of studying Jackie Robinson, what about discovering the person who broke the color barrier in basketball or hockey?
This year’s theme of Breaking Barriers in History is an exciting one. We can’t wait to see what topics your students will be exploring!
The trip to the National Contest is always a wonderful celebration of the achievements of Connecticut's students. It's a delight to get to know students, teachers, and parents. This year's 68-member delegation was pretty amazing and the 2019 National Contest was one of the most memorable contests ever!
Never in our history have so many Connecticut students received national awards. It really was unbelievable, especially when you consider that approximately 4,000 Connecticut students participate and that there are states with 30,000 or more participants.
Connecticut dominated the Senior Paper category. Margo Pedersen from Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven won First Place for her paper Malaga Island: How the State of Maine Devistated a Resilient Island Community in the Name of the Greater Good. Ishan Prasad from Staples High School in Westport won Second Place for his paper Shah Bano and India's Postcolonial Predicament: Gender vs. Religion.
Mia Porcello from Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford won First Place in the Senior Individual Exhibit division for her project Out of the Closet and into the Medicine Cabinet: ACT UP New York's Healthcare Triumphs. This is the third time Mia has won first place at the National Contest.
Two Connecticut students won Special Prizes. Marlena Pegolo from Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford won Outstanding Entry in World War I History for her performance, The Tragic and Triumphant "Tail" of Stubby, the Military Dog. Josh Picoult from Simsbury High Schoolin Simsbury won the U.S. Constitution Award for his project Where Do We Draw the Line? How the Triumph of District-Based Representative Government Devolved into a Tragic Distortion of American Democratic Ideals.
Lindsay Moynihan from Conard High School in West Hartford won a four year scholarship to the University of Maryland for her project Turning a Tragedy into a Triumph" Dolley Madison, the War of 1818, and the Creation of a National Identity. Lindsay has been a CHD participant for six years.
Two Connecticut students recieved the Outstanding Connecticut Entry Prizes. Eileen Peng from Irving A. Robbins Middle School in Farmington won a Junior Division prize for her paper The Treason of Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Triumph and Tragedy. Katelyn Meyers from Nonnewaug High School, Region 14 won a Senior Division prize for her exhibit, The Nuremberg Doctors Trials.
Two other Connecticut teams were finalists. Iniya Raja from Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor finished in 6th place for her Junior Individual Performance, The Eugenic Roles: Dead Souls and Birth Control. Emma Losonczy, Lucia Wang, Mallika Subramanian, Rhea Choudhury, and Sharmila Green from Bedford Middle School in Westport finished in 8th place for their Junior Group Exhibit, Lise Meitner: A Woman's Determination and Scientific Triumph Through Personal Societal Tragedy.
The National Contest was much more than just winning awards. Morgan Geisinger from Vernon Center Middle School was one of 57 students to share her exhibit, Triumph Over Tragedy: Newsies Stop the World, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Wednesday, June 12. That same day, a group of five students, McKenna Semeraro, Walter Vallecillo, Luis Nunez, Marlon Vallecilla, and Saoirse Noyes from CREC Montessori Magnet School in Hartford presented their documentary on the Little Rock 9, entitled Paying a Price for Education, to Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis insisted his whole office come to watch the students' work and commented that "we learn from young people." In researching their topic, the students interview the sister of one of the Little Rock 9 students. Luis Nunez commented that "we poured passion into our presentation."
Connecticut students had a chance to come together during the week as well. Many students attended the Welcome Ceremony on Sunday, June 8. While rain forced us inside, it was still an honor to listen to Civil Rights Activist Judy Richardson as she spoke about her experience with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. On Monday, June 9, we celebrated the end of the first round of judging for the junior division and welcomed many senior division students with an ice cream social. The University of Maryland's Dairy Store is a firm favorite of NHD participants! On Wednesday, June 12, many members of CT's delegation joined Liz Porter, the Norwich Regional Coordinator, and I for a trip to Washington D.C. The group toured the U.S. Capitol, visited the U.S. Supreme Court, and met with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. One of the Senator's staff, Natalie, is an NHD alumni and she spoke to our group about her experiences. The National Contest culminated in the Awards Ceremony, held in the Xfinity Center at UMD.
It was another exciting National Contest! As always, I am struck by the breadth of topics students explored. All of us at Connecticut History Day are proud of all of the students who participated this past year.
- Rebecca Taber-Conover
State Coordinator for Connecticut History Day