On Thursday evening, campus bustled with activity as hundreds of students displayed their National History Day (NHD) projects and interviewed with judges at the M-A NHD Showcase and Competition. Students worked since the start of the school year on historical research projects related to the annual theme, which this year is “Frontiers in History.”
Competitors and their projects filled the library, Zen Den, Maker Space, and PAC Cafe. AP U.S. History teacher Anne Olson said, “Last year, we had about 70 projects at the school showcase, and this year we have 134. So we had huge growth.” All students in AP U.S. or World History, and some in College Prep World History, participated. There were 352 competitors total, making this the largest M-A NHD Showcase to date. Olson explained, “We have a ton more AP History students this year than we ever have before,” contributing to the NHD’s growth at M-A.
Students chose to work either individually or in groups, and presented their research as either papers, exhibits, websites, documentaries, podcasts, or performances. Only the top three projects from each division will advance to the San Mateo County NHD competition in March. Standout projects from across the county will then go to the California state competition in April, and the state champions will compete nationally in June.
Olson said, “Students get to choose their topic and they get to choose how they present the information. There’s a lot of autonomy that students get in the experience, which I think is also really valuable.”
Junior Emily Qian, who created a website on judicial responses to anti-Chinese sentiment and legislation in the 1880s, said, “I felt like I had a personal connection to my topic, so I was just more interested. I loved being able to choose my own topic because I wasn’t forced to research something that I didn’t care about.”
“I think this project was different from other assignments I’ve had because it feels more personal,” said sophomore Allegra Hoddie. She worked in a group to create an exhibit on a series of French student protests in May 1968. Hoddie continued, “Even though I’m not French and I haven’t participated in a student revolt, I felt like my project really represented the power of student voices, and it was almost empowering as I went through my research.”
Sophomore Maeve Miller, who wrote an individual paper on the Russian Revolution, said, “This was a lot of individual work. I feel like on other projects I’ve done, I’ve gotten more guidance, but this time, I had a lot of freedom—but I also had to do a lot of work on my own.”
Olson said, “From NHD, students gain research skills, problem solving, critical thinking, and historical inquiry, and all of those things are important. But I think, beyond that, there’s a lesson of endurance in starting something in October when you don’t finish it until February—and students who advance are sometimes working on it until May or June. Continuously working on something and not letting barriers get in your way is a really important lesson that students learn.”
World History teacher Austin Hunt said, “Working like this over a long time helps students with cooperation and time management, and it helps create intrigue because you get to do a project that you come up with. I think that a lot of that fosters curiosity and interest for people.”
“This project was more work than other history projects, but I did like how you got to choose what you were researching,” said junior Sarah Larson, who made an individual documentary on Mother Jones’ advocacy. She continued, “I think, ultimately, it’s more fulfilling than other history projects, because you have an end product that’s kinda big.”
Junior Violet Riley’s group researched and made a website about Gideon v. Wainwright, a Supreme Court case guaranteeing criminal defendants access to a public defender. Riley said, “It was a lot of research, and I feel like I put way more time into this than I have for any other project. When it was finished, I felt very accomplished.”
Olson said, “My favorite part of NHD is when students start to see their project come together and they get really excited and proud of the work that they did. At the end I can see this joy in students’ eyes when they’re just fulfilled by the process. That’s the most incredible feeling as a teacher, and it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re doing this for a reason.’ Sometimes it’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s definitely my favorite part.”
Update, February 7th: Congratulations to the following entries for advancing to the San Mateo County NHD competition!
- Papers (all individual): Isabel Seniawski, Ajax Fu, Maeve Miller
- Individual Exhibits: Sofia Leon, Paul Whelan, Emiko Edmunds
- Group Exhibits: Aliyah Chowdhary-Fitton, Lindsay Park, Lilah Chen, & Sofia Basso; Nao Ohashi & Annette Pflaum; Cooper Jones, Colin Smith, Matthew Wolf, Braedan Grant, & Ascher Lafayette
- Individual Websites: Emily Qian, Collin Goel, Zahara Agarwal
- Group Websites: Sina Kassayan & Siavash Hassibi; Dylan Lanier, Anna Gady, & Violet Riley; Mikey Sanford, Yael Stewart, Shea Dekshenieks, Aria Sokol, & Alice Ingelsson
- Individual Documentaries: Sarah Weintraut, Sarah Larson, Devon Schindler
- Group Documentaries: Katherine Ahn & Emma Hamlin; Carlos Myers-Ascencio & Geoffrey Li; Alexander Chan, Lillen Montague-Alamin, Carmel Goraly, & Iris Stevenson
- Individual Podcasts: Sonia Freedman, Amala Raj, Phoebe Nagy
- Group Podcasts: Kate Budinger, Gina Cline, Natalie Fishman, & Shannon O’Connor; Samantha Adelberg, Jasmine Hou, Ailon Goraly, John Dipenbrock, & Theo Golovinsky; Holly Cheung, Silvana Schmidt, Eve Amram, Emily Pecore, & Sara Djafari