Five students from Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) took first place in the state National History Day competition in Tallahassee in May and will be advancing to the national contest in Maryland this summer. Christopher Schunk, Kaley Hendry, Gabrielle Cahill, Nicholas Hadler and Theo Linardic won first place in the Senior Group Documentary category for Encounter Among the Stars, a film that tracks the history of space exploration from ancient cultures to today, focusing on the role of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The students competed against about 55 schools in Broward County to qualify for the state competition. Coral Springs Christian Academy Sophomore Steven Quintero also qualified to compete in the state competition in the Individual Exhibit category for his project entitled “Jonas Salk-A Shot for Life,” which chronicled the development of Salk’s polio vaccine.
National History Day
Over nine million sixth to twelfth grade students have participated in National History Day throughout the years. Students study throughout the academic year to compete in this history competition, first at the state level, then if they are successful, at the national level in Washington D.C. According to Trampas Alderman, the Curator of Education for the Museum of Florida and the Florida History Fair State Coordinator, “The Florida History Fair provides a year-long academic experience that uses history to improve students’ research, critical thinking, and communication skills and expand their awareness and appreciation of the past. Working alone or in a group, students research topics related to a broad theme selected annually by NHD. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History. After gathering, evaluating, and analyzing primary and secondary evidence from archives, libraries, historic sites, and other sources, students present their findings in a web-site, performance, documentary, historical paper or exhibit.”
Alderman said, “The Museum of Florida History has sponsored FHF since the 1988–89 academic year. This year 1,120 students competed at the state level. Of these 59 will advance to the National History Day competition in College Park, MD.”
At the national contest, first-, second-, and third-place winners receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively. The grand prize is a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Case Western Reserve University. Partial tuition scholarships are awarded to Chaminade University (Honolulu, Hawaii) and the University of Maryland (College Park).
The winning team of CCA students went the extra mile in conducting research. One student flew to Chicago to film an interview with former NASA Astronaut Greg Harbaugh. Another student conducted an interview with a public affairs representative at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville. The final documentary was 10 minutes long and utilized over 100 research pieces.
The CCA students were under the instruction of Richard Blatz and Beverly Larson, who assist the students with research, providing primary source data bases and making sure they understand different points of view. “The CCA secondary department students begin researching for their projects in the fall as they prepare in hopes to represent the school at the county competition in February and some of the exceptional research has comprised of 100-300 sources,” said Blatz.
“The NHD is a critical component of discipling our students to not only know history, but to analyze, evaluate and most importantly apply the lessons of history to their current cultural context,” he added. “It is more than just a typical academic outlet. Students develop socially as they learn to collaborate together as a team. Academically, students rise to the rigors of research as they compile information on various themes, but our ultimate goal, is for students to become better discerners of history especially in a time in which truth has become subject to relativity. What National History Day does for our students is best exemplified in these words, ‘There is no jewel so precious than the one you mined yourself.’”
Florida History Fair positively impacts the lives of not only the students that participate, but the teachers as well. In reference to how it positively affects teachers, Alderman says, “History Fair enlivens the teaching and learning of history through the use of primary and secondary sources and authentic research. Florida History Fair helps educators to satisfy Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and Language Arts Florida Standards. Students who participate gain greater knowledge and appreciation of the recorded past, become confident historical researchers, strengthen language arts skills, develop critical thinking skills and experience opportunities to compete for honors, prizes, and scholarships. Multiple presentation categories enable students with different learning styles to express themselves in the most effective way. FHF winners and participants receive certificates, medals, gift cards and recognition in their community.” For more information, visit nhd.org.
Gabriella Morris is a home school student and writer at Good News. She can be reached at [email protected]