Ten students representing five Oklahoma school systems received recognition for their projects during the 2020 National History Day (NHD) contest. The national contest is the final stage in a series of contests beginning at the local/regional and state/affiliate levels. This event is held annually to highlight the work of middle and high school students from the United States and several countries around the world who have prepared projects with a particular theme in mind. The theme for 2020 was “Breaking Barriers in History,” and students presented their work in the form of papers, documentaries, performances, exhibits or websites. The Oklahoma History Center serves as the state sponsor for Oklahoma National History Day (OkNHD) and coordinates the state competition, while various local sponsors manage regional events.
Students begin their journey by presenting their projects in classrooms, schools and regional contests across the country. Top entries are invited to the state/affiliate level contests. The top two entries in each category at the state/affiliate level are then invited to the national contest. In past years, state winners have had the opportunity to travel to College Park, Maryland, for judging in the National History Day contest. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant an alteration in how this event was traditionally held. This year, all presentations and entries were uploaded to the NHD registry, then downloaded and reviewed by the judges. The judging panels were comprised of teachers, graduate students, authors, historians and volunteers from various museums domestically, as well as seven international sites. The Smithsonian Institution, of which the Oklahoma History Center is an active affiliate, also contributed judges from its staff, as well as from other national affiliates.
“This year posed many challenges to the students, not the least was the fact that the schools were closed,” said Sarah Dumas, director of education at the Oklahoma History Center and OkNHD state coordinator. “Research on their particular projects had to be done wherever they could find it. It seems that this year’s theme, ‘Breaking Barriers,’ became a reality to all those who participated in this wonderful event.”
Judging for the national contest, also done virtually, was completed between May 23 and June 6. The Oklahoma students who earned honors at the 2020 National History Day competition are as follows:
1. First Place in Senior Group Website: Evan McCrackin, Justin Yang and Shoaib Jamil for their website entitled “For the Rainbow Children of God: Desmond Tutu’s Perilous Conquest against South African Apartheid.” Their teacher at Norman Public Schools is Margaret Wadleigh.
2. Special Award for Discovery or Exploration in History: Amelia Peoples, Cate Mossman and Kate Schein for their Senior Group Documentary entitled “The Journey to Mars: How Donna Shirley Broke Barriers for Women in Space Engineering.” Their teacher at Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City is Billy Tillman.
3. Special Award for Equality in History: Alexa Delgado and McKayla Howerton for their Junior Group Exhibit entitled “Woman vs. Woman.” Their teacher at Canton Public Schools is Penny Heath.
4. Special Award for Outstanding Junior State Entry: Zayda Sherwood for Junior Paper entitled “Love Conquers All: How Loving v. Virginia Helped Break Racial Barriers.” Her teacher at Canton Public Schools is Penny Heath.
5. Special Award for Outstanding Senior State Entry: Jordan Mason for her Senior Individual Performance entitled “Bright Not Broken: The Barrier Between Autism and Agriculture.” Her teacher at Burns Flat-Dill City Public Schools is Patsy Lyles.
National History Day is a nonprofit education organization in College Park, Maryland. Established in 1974, NHD offers year-long academic programs that engage more than half a million middle and high school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. NHD also seeks to improve the quality of history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators.
The Oklahoma History Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, National Archives and is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.