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Class VIII Students Excel at National History Day Competition

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Waterford eight graders competed at Utah's National History Day competition.
Waterford Class VIII students and Kristin South. 

For over 30 years, National History Day has invited students in grades six through twelve to produce high quality research-based projects in which they study a specific aspect of history -- ancient to modern, European, African, and beyond -- and create a presentation examining their topic through a specific theme. This year's theme, "Conflict and Compromise," could hardly be more timely as we are witnessing conflicts at home and abroad, and the consequences of political parties, individuals, and nations being unwilling to make diplomatic compromises. 

(A recent article in the New York Times talks about the local history day competition in New York City).

Here at Waterford, three of the five eighth grade classes participated in National History Day for the first time. 50 of our students joined another 7500+ students across the state of Utah to produce a 2500 word paper (around 8 pages); an exhibit (of up to six feet high!); a website (1500 word limit); a live, 10-minute performance; or a documentary (also ten minutes). Of the fourteen projects we were allowed to bring to the regional competition, ten moved on to state. This in itself was remarkable, given the high quality of the projects in the Salt Lake region and the limited number of spots (18 total). 

At Saturday's state competition, each category had 18-27 entries, all of which had undergone at least two rounds of elimination before arriving there. Our ten entries, and the fourteen students who made them, faced grilling by historians from across the state, and they performed magnificently -- seven of the ten received recognition. Here are our results:

  • Lilly Frame and Esme Smith, "Women's Suffrage in Utah" -- Tied for First Place, Group Documentary (National Qualifier)
  • Sofia Del Fiol and Ellie Vogel, "The Conflicts and Compromises of Climate Change" -- Tied for First Place, Group Documentary (National Qualifier)
  • Grant Felsted, "On the Home Front: Rationing During World War II" --  First Place, Individual Exhibit (National Qualifier)
  • Andrew Smaellie and Tommy Varghese, "Steve Jobs vs. Apple" -- First Place, Group Website  (National Qualifier)
  • Devon Tonneson, "The United States' Compromise of its Moral Values: The Internment of German Americans During World War II" -- Honorable Mention, Individual Documentary 
  • Jake Mortenson and Warren Hansen, "The Compromises and Conflicts of D-Day" -- cash prize in military history

In addition to these fine projects, four others competed at state: Ciel Morrill produced a thoughtful and passionate documentary on women in the military; Max Korkishko had a paper on the conflicts and compromises faced by Russian immigrants to the United States; Hope Quarles presented a fascinating and well-researched website on the Treasury/Fed Accord, which freed American monetary policy from political pressure; and Kasper Nilsson created a magnificent documentary on the important role of the downtown retailers in Birmingham, Alabama's civil rights movement.

History teacher Kristin South was instrumental in encouraging and assisting students throughout the process and at the event. Beyond their work with Kristin, students received guidance and help from faculty in English, computer science, history, and biology. They interviewed nationally-renowned historians and scientists and even contacted the founder of Pixar for insight. They have been working since December on these projects.

The National History Day competition has participants from across the globe, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. We can be very proud that our Waterford historians, in their inaugural run, have found a place among them. Please congratulate all of them if you see them!

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