For seventh graders, eighth graders and sophomores and juniors in non-honors history classes, first semester means four months dedicated to developing a National History Day (NHD) project in the form of either a research paper, performance, exhibit, website or documentary. Hosted in the theater, the NHD school competition occurred Jan. 9-10, with the first place winners of each category advancing to the district competition.
Students completing the project follow a theme; this year, students centered their projects around “Triumph and Tragedy.” “I really enjoyed this year’s theme,” Mrs. Daniela Conn, seventh grade US History teacher said. “On the one hand, it was very straight forward which made choosing a topic easier for my students. Additionally, the theme this year lended itself to some fascinating stories.”
Eighth grader Mary Abi-Karam’s research paper exemplified one of these fascinating stories, written about the 1979 rescue of the Canadian Six during the Iranian hostage crisis, a topic later turned into the movie “Argo.”
“I chose my topic because it seems like something so unreal. Also, I’m really passionate about good movies, and I love watching them,” Abi-Karam said. “Being able to combine an amazing story with something that I love like watching movies was fantastic for me. The CIA and Canada rescued the six right under the Iranians’ noses. Pretty cool if you ask me.”
Most students moving on to districts had found an interest in their topics, whether through a personal connection or curiosity. For eight grader Christopher Gaski, a group exhibit fit what he had in mind for his NHD project on Sadako Sasaki and her thousand paper cranes.
“Daniel Gleicher and I chose this project category because the exhibit was the best way to display our creativity. We chose the topic due to my Asian heritage,” Gaski said.
For those moving on to the district competition, more time and effort on the project is required for the next level. According to Mrs. Leslie Porges, junior high history teacher and NHD coordinator, the next step requires a reconstruction of projects and more sources. One such project includes that of eighth graders Cate Zeiger and Sophia Abati, who are working on a group performance on the lives of the wives of Ulysses S. Grant and Jefferson Davis during the American Civil War.
“My partner and I will be meeting with teachers weekly to practice and rewrite our scene, cite and annotate more sources, and work on our line delivery,” Zeiger said.
A common theme across project improvement is gathering more sources. “Sources are everything, so the next step for me is just gathering as many sources as I can, while also going back and tweaking a few mistakes or other small things here and there in my paper,” Abi-Karam said.
When deciding which project style to display their topic, most students went with the style that would both display their topic best and utilize their strengths. “I chose to do a paper because the way I think is the most efficient way to present facts is to tell them straight up. Also, I would say writing is one of my strong suits,” Abi-Karam said.
Similarly, Zeiger and Abati decided to use their strengths for their group performance. “I chose my project category because both my partner and I have experience with competitive acting, and I especially have written many scripts during my time at American Heritage,” Zeiger said.
As for advice for future students completing this project, Abi-Karam recommends taking advantage of the opportunity this project presents. “If you want to pick a topic or category, but you think it will be too hard and you want to take the easy way out, don’t. Challenge yourself, you might learn something,” Abi-Karam said. “Also, if you are better at working independently, you have trust issues, or you would rather do things your own way, work by yourself. Don’t work with a partner just because you think you’ll do less work. It doesn’t work that way.”
The district competition will take place Feb. 22 at Pompano Beach High School.
High school students advancing to districts
Sarah Walenciak: Research Paper
Joshua Hoffman: Performance
Rudy Moise: Exhibit
Israel Del Rosario and Sophia Gorostiza: Group Exhibit
Benjamin Abi-Rafeh: Documentary
Alycia Cypress and Theodore Rachuskas: Group documentary
JH students advancing to districts
Mary Abi-Karam: Research Paper
Eden Schwartz: Exhibit
Daniel Gleicher and Christopher Gaski: Group Exhibit
Wynona Brinkmann: Performance
Cate Zeiger and Sophia Abati: Group Performance
Alphee Duval: Website
Rebecca Weltmann: Documentary
Elias Smith and Cameron Wright: Group Documentary