Middle schoolers tackle NHD again


by staff writer Kyra Kong

Bay Farm Middle schoolers are participating in National History Day, or NHD, again this year.

National History Day was first introduced to this school last year, when 7th grade teachers Nancy Ely and Jeannette Frechou came to Bay Farm. Bay Farm is the only school in the district to require all its middle school students to participate. You can find out more about bay Farm’s participation here.

This year’s topic for NHD is Exploration, Encounter & Exchange. The types of projects that students could choose from were websites, documentaries, performances, and exhibit boards. They were also required to include a process paper, annotated bibliography, map, and a timeline.

“What I like about it, is like that it gives us kids something to do and I mean, it’s challenging,” said 6th grader Nebiyu Teklemariam. “I think the main purpose of NHD is really just to prepare us for high school and college and our future careers. So I think it’s pretty cool.”

NHD has been done a bit differently this year. Students and teachers have started to use new programs such as Noodle Tools and Google Classroom for NHD. Starting from January 6th 2016, teachers started the NHD Workshop, where students that were focused on websites went to Ms. Ely’s classroom, exhibit boards in teacher Joni Reynold’s classroom, and performances and documentaries in teacher Katie Linderme’s classroom. Students could also go to Ms. Frechou’s and teacher Lori Oducayen’s rooms for editing purposes.

While the checkpoints and the schedule were be flexible, students were required to turn in their sources and their project on time. Since there is more emphasis towards technology at this school, students were encouraged to build websites and documentaries. This year is also the first time that Bay Farm has two performances that would automatically be placed into the County level: an 8th grader and two 6th graders.

“Many more students are choosing to do either websites or documentaries, as opposed to museum exhibits. Also, we have two performances this year, whereas last year we had none. It also seems that more students are choosing to work in groups, rather than solo,” said Ms. Ely. “Ultimately, the project is not so much about winning, but about learning: learning to research; learning to apply unique talents to a project; learning to evaluate information; learning to connect historical ideas to a theme; learning to write a thesis statement to defend/ support it. Whether it’s a dramatic interpretation of Lincoln or a research paper about women’s suffrage, students are developing important skills in research analysis, and communication, which they will need in high school and beyond.”

Sixth grade teacher Mrs. Reynolds said that she is glad that NHD poses a challenge to students who may not be used to projects beyond the usual assignments.

“This competition and the rules that govern it are creating a situation of rigor and challenge that almost every student at this school is completely knocked over sideways by,” she said. “It’s encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone, the skills that you’re learning will literally support you throughout your academic career, to learn how to write a thesis statement at the age of 11, to learn how to do an annotated bibliography, or a process paper, to learn how to interview an expert and how to do that in an articulate manner. These are skills that are going to pay back a hundredfold in high school, in college, in grad School. So the skills that are embedded in NHD are life long academic skills.”

This rigor has made NHD difficult for some students to embrace. But others have enjoyed learning from it.

“What I like most about NHD is that you get to choose your own topic. Let’s say, for example, that a history professor tells you to write an essay about the ancient Egyptian pyramids. You’re limited to one topic and not everybody is interested in the ancient Egyptian pyramids, which can make the project stressful, boring, and limited,” said 8th grader Jay Bond, who was an alternate to the state competition last year. “With NHD, however, you could make a documentary on the Roman military, a website about the Great Wall of China, or an exhibit showcasing the White House.”