HHS National History Day Draws
The study of history often gets a bad rap by those who believe it is a boring pursuit and carries no appeal for teenagers. A group of 110 Huntington High School students proved the naysayers wrong, spending months developing projects for the local National History Day competition and reveling in the attention and awards heaped upon them during an evening ceremony.
"Much of the work produced by our students reflected college level research and continuously impressed not only myself but all of my colleagues who took the time to carefully and meticulously evaluate the projects created this year," said Lauren Desiderio, a social studies teacher at the school who serves as the NHD club's faculty advisor.
Participants submitted entries in a number of categories ranging from research papers to all sorts of individual and group websites, exhibits and documentaries. "I couldn't be more proud of the students who participated in this year's competition," Mrs. Desiderio said. "I hope their enthusiasm towards historical research will continue throughout the rest of their time here at Huntington High School as we continue to build this worthwhile program."
Teams of teachers served as judges for each category and spent hours evaluating the projects, which were put on display for the public prior to the announcement of this year's award winners.
The top place finishers will now advance to the Long Island regional finals at Hofstra University in March. The state finals are slated for Cooperstown in May and the national championship will be held in June on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.
"As athletes, Ben and I really enjoyed researching the Munich massacre," Billy Martin said about the special award winning project he and fellow sophomore Ben Kocis developed on the slaughter of Israel athletes at 1972 Olympics. "Overall, the whole NHD experience was a blast, as well as a challenge. Finding all our information was fun because at the same time we were learning really interesting facts. At the end of the whole project, being able to watch our final product after months of researching was very rewarding to us."
The history initiative seeks to make history more relevant for students and requires them to use a variety of practical and creative skills during the development of their projects.
"I cannot wait to continue on in the National History Day competition," said junior Kaylyn Johnson who won the individual exhibit category for her project on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. "After working so closely with previous winners, I can only hope that my project has what it takes to make it to the national level. This topic has most definitely caught my interest and I am thrilled to begin improving my exhibit and to build upon the name Huntington is making for itself in the NHD competition."
The projects were displayed publicly prior to the crowd moving into the School Heritage Museum for the announcement of this year's award winners. Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky was on hand, studying each project and discussing many of the works with their creators.
"We liked that we had the freedom to pick our own historical topic and expand on it," said Lyndsey Williams, who developed a group exhibit on "A Revolutionary Way of Life" with fellow sophomore Sara Toturo. "It made the process more enjoyable for us."
"By choosing a local topic, we learned many interesting facts about events that happened practically in our backyards that we would have never known otherwise," Ms. Totura said. "National History Day was a nice break from typical schoolwork. In our classes we always learn about events, but not in great depth. National History Day is the opposite. We get to pick a specific topic and go as in depth as possible."
Huntington students have enjoyed a great deal of success over the years in the National History Day regional and state finals. This year's participants have high hopes for their projects, too.
"National History Day is a project unlike any other that I have ever done, as it has allowed me to go beyond my comfort zone of doing a regular research project because the project requires for me to go outside the box by looking for deeper resources, and on a topic that I am personally interested in which makes it that much more unique," said junior Katie Healy who teamed with classmate Annie Nugent on the group documentary "Changing the World One Non-Violent Movement at a Time."
Sophomore Julianna Kimchy, who developed an individual website on the Bolshevik Revolution, said her National History Day experience had been "like no other. It has taught me research skills, time management, and above all perseverance. Throughout the course of this project, I have grown as a student both mentally and emotionally."
Sophomores Emily Saltman and Alyson Baker took first place for their group documentary on "The Nuremberg Trials and International Law." Ms. Baker admits the process was very demanding.
"NHD is a challenging research project, one that takes a lot time and effort, but when it's complete it is something you can really be proud of, seeing the end result of all of your hard work is what makes it all completely worth it," Ms. Baker said.
Juniors Josh Morris and Scout Ziegler captured first place in the group website category for "Prohibition." The duo spent time considering just what type of project they wanted to develop and then worked hard to produce a work of high quality.
"We chose to make a website because of the tremendous role the Internet plays in our daily lives," Mr. Morris said. "Being able to organize our research on a web page made it easier for us to comprehend and enjoy the process, as well as those who visited the site. Both Scout and I are very excited to be moving onto the next round of competition at Hofstra in March!"
"The growth and success that our school's National History Day program has experienced over the past several years is a true testament to the dedication of our students," Mrs. Desiderio said. "Our National History Day program fosters a passion for learning and love of history through an innovative experience. These students have given up countless hours, some of them since the summer, to formulate an original thesis, conduct, evaluate and analyze research which culminated in the final project they showcased in our local competition."
The top finishers in each category included:
1. Katherine Danziger: How Religion was Influenced by the Russian Revolution.
1. Ryan Lader: Eugenics.
2. Thomas Kouttron: Child Labor in the Garment Industry.
3. Emily McGoldrick: FDR and the New Deal Revolutionizing Government in the 1930s.
1. Matthew Beeby: The Zenger Trial.
2. Christine O'Grady: From the Depression to the Reform in Entertainment.
3. Julianna Kimchy: The Bolshevik Revolution.
1. Joshua Morris and Scout Ziegler: Prohibition.
2. Rebecca Palladino and Stephanie Rafuse: English Women's Rights Movement.
3. Sibilla Maiarelli and Donovan Richardson: Impact of the Green Revolution in India.
1. Jennifer Polster:The Housing Act.
2. Monica Casabona: Kent State: American's Reaction to the Vietnam War.
3. Collin Francis: WWI Technology.
1. Emily Saltman and Alyson Baker: The Nuremberg Trials and International Law.
2. Katie Healy and Annie Nugent: Changing the World One Non-Violent Movement at a Time.
3. Joellen Ceide and Nina Flores: Steve Biko.
1. Kaylyn Johnston: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
2. Erica Flor:Harlem Renaissance.
3. Liz Whitcher: Impact of WWII on Women's Rights.
1. Gillian Ehrman and Haley Miller: WWII and the Homefront.
2. Sara Totura and Lyndsey Williams: A Revolutionary Way of Life:
3. Joe Ambrosio, Brandon May, and Ben Warren: One Small Step for Russia, One Giant Step for America: The Space Race
Best Global Topic:
Billy Martin and Ben Kocis: The Munich Massacre
Best Topic in American History:
Jennifer Polster: The Housing Act
Christina Thiemann: Darwinian Revolution
Outstanding Entry on African-American History:
Pauline McGlone and Alexis Thompson: Abolition Movement during the Civil War
Outstanding Entry on Genocide, Bias, or Tolerance:
Emily Maggio and Natalie Lanzisero: The Power of Deception: Nazi Propaganda
Outstanding Entry on the History of Science:
Samantha Greenidge: DNA Revolution
Outstanding Entry on Military History:
Travon Seon: My Lai Massacre
Clio Award: (Rewards innovation and creative excellence)
Kaylyn Johnston: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
Jack Abrams Local History Award:
Elizabeth Eichenberger: The Civil Rights Movement on Long Island: The Battle to Desegregate Malverne Schools
"It is very exciting to see students rise to the challenge of not only furthering their research skills but also their technological skills," Mrs. Desiderio said. "Many students created their very first website, with some going as far as writing their own codes to create these interactive multimedia sites! Others created documentaries and exhibits that are of museum quality. I couldn't be more proud of all of our students who competed in this year's competition and I look forward to working with those that will now move on to the regional competition. It's truly amazing what they accomplished!"