Connecticut students had unprecedented success at the 2021 National Contest. Fifty-six Connecticut students joined the almost 3,000 students from across the United States and territories, and from programs in China, Korea, and South Asia for the virtual National Contest. Twelve projects were ranked in the top ten nationally, with three projects finishing in the top three, two winning Special Awards, and a further two projects winning the Outstanding Connecticut Awards:
Who knew how appropriate this year’s theme for National History Day (NHD), Communication in History: The Key to Understanding would be for the 2020-21 school year when it was selected several years ago? The Connecticut Democracy Center at Connecticut's Old State House (CTDC), which manages Connecticut History Day (CHD), adopted several strategies to overcome challenges and maintain a strong vibrant program. This year, over 800 Connecticut middle- and high-school students participated in the six Regional Contests, with 356 continuing to the State Contest and 56 representing Connecticut at the National Contest. One student reflected that “History Day has really helped me to be more independent with my learning which is especially helpful while being an at home student.”
At the State Contest, fifty-six students finished in first- or second- place and qualified for the National Contest. Third place finishers received medals and twenty-six Special Prizes, sponsored primarily by local organizations, were awarded. To celebrate the students' achievements, CHD staff embarked on a two-day bus tour in early June to deliver medals, t-shirts and lawn signs for National qualifiers. Teachers and students enthusiastically welcomed staff, saying "It made us feel special you came." Staff were greeted with cheers and signs upon arrival.
Two Connecticut educators received special recognition for outstanding teaching and dedication to CHD. Salwa Collings of Madina Academy in Windsor was the junior division nominee and Karen Cook of Norwich Free Academy senior division nominee for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award. These awards recognize the pivotal role teachers play in the lives of students.
During the National Contest, students participated in several online activities, including viewing student entries, attending workshops on next year’s NHD theme, participating in a virtual button hunt and attending a sock hop hosted by DJ Lady E. The National Museum of American History hosted a special showcase of exhibitions of fifty-eight projects, each one representing one of the NHD affiliate programs. Sylvia Halbrooks, Simonne Thibeault and Amanda Zadnik of Mansfield Middle School represented Connecticut with their project, Mark Twain and Imperialism: Exposing the American Eagles Talons in the Philippines.
While COVID 19 may have impacted how CHD took place, it did not change the benefits of the program. Students, reflected on what they had learned this past year: how to manage their time; how to find and evaluate sources; learning to build a website; interviewing scholars; gaining confidence; working with teammates, and many other skills. One Mansfield student shared that "History Day has been a wonderful experience throughout my middle school years it's so thought out and the judges are so nice this is a really awesome club to join." Another student reflected that "It helped me find a voice that was in me all along. It also helped me realize that if I try hard I can do anything." Several teachers reflected on the tenacity of their students to complete a project during a challenging school year and that doing so gave a sense of normalcy to a very unusual year. Congratulations to all of the students!