NHD holds first virtual competitions

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Courtesy of Riley Sucato.

Anastasiia Goi and Riley Sucato’s 1st Place Exhibit “Alexander Hamilton: A Revolutionary Transforming the World with Every Pen Stroke.”

Robbie Kugler, Staff Writer

Select students recently competed in the National History Day (NHD) school-level competition, which was held virtually this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Competition wise, everything had to be virtual,” said teacher Stephanie Shimp. “When we’re in person we do the History Day Fair where everyone’s all together, people meet with the judges, the judges fill out the sheets all at the same time. Virtually, what’s different is I had to come up with a way for the judges to see the projects without having to send out a billion emails.”

Students were allowed to make individual or group entries that fit into one of five categories: Documentary, Exhibit, Paper, Performance, or Website, and one of the unintended side effects of going virtual this year was a much wider disparity in the number of submissions for each category.

“We didn’t have any performances this year because performances were kind of hard to create virtually and we had a lot more group projects than we normally did,” said Shimp. “Also, the exhibits are displayed differently. They’re in a virtual format, so they’re a little bit harder to review than they are when you’re looking at the board right in front of you.”

Trying to create an exhibit during the pandemic posed a larger logistical challenge than most of the categories because, even though all of the judging was done virtually, participating students still needed to make a physical display. For students working in groups, this challenge was even more daunting.

“The hardest part of creating the exhibit board during the pandemic was scheduling a time that worked with both our school and track schedules,” said sophmores Anastasiia Goi and Riley Sucato. “It was also quite difficult having to limit the amount of quotes we could put on the board, since there was a certain limit to how many words would fit on the slideshow.”

Despite the difficulties involved with sharing and producing a physical project in a virtual setting, the Exhibit category still experienced tremendous success this year. In terms of student participation, it was second only to Websites. But while the top two categories had plenty of competition, there were far fewer Documentaries and Papers to go around. In total there were only eight submissions for the Documentary category, and with only three of those being group entries, a select number of students basically won by default. 

“I think my group’s documentary was good but not necessarily amazing,” said sophomore Leana Gyalokay. The top three submissions for each category, separated by individual and group entries, advanced to the District 5 competition and will be receiving their results back later this month. Many students were left out of the running completely if they entered a more contested field like Website or Exhibit, but others were still able to find a consolation prize by winning Special Awards such as, “Outstanding Project in the History of the Visual and Performing Arts, or “Best Original Topic.” 

Ultimately, the whole point of NHD is to promote the study of history and, despite the prevailing circumstances, that vision remained intact this year. Students rose to meet the challenges posed by the virtual competition and teachers managed to patch together a system that still allowed their creativity to flourish. As long as a topic could be connected back to the annual theme of “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding,” participating students were free to explore and research whatever they found most interesting.