For her National History Day project, Lisarah Simonson, 16, focused on China’s one-child policy. But her research was more than academic.
“I was abandoned at 2 months old in China and picked up by an orphanage in my province,” she said. “I was adopted two days before my first birthday.”
Simonson doesn’t know anything about her birth family except for the contents of a note her mother left asking someone with a kind heart to care for her baby. However, in completing her project, she said, she gained perspective into their decision.
“I felt my parents had to do what they had to do to abide by the law,” she said. “I’m OK with it. I’m glad I was adopted.”
Carson High School sophomores enrolled in Honors American History classes joined more than a half-million students nationwide Friday to participate in the National History Day contest. Students choose historical topics and conduct extensive research. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries.
This year’s theme was “rights and responsibilities,” which tasked students with finding the rights and responsibilities of the historical figures during a particular period or event.
“That has been a difficult theme to prove,” said history teacher Nicole Fagundes. “They have risen to the occasion. Every project is outstanding.”
In their project, The Right to Fight, Delaney Fine, 16, and Vanessa Torres, 15, recounted the March to Versailles during the French Revolution. The students determined the 6,000 women who marched from Paris were within their rights to demand bread for their impoverished city from the king.
“The king was responsible to provide food and salaries to the people,” Torres said. “But he failed to do that. So the women were right to revolt.”
Fine said the project taught them more than a history lesson.
“We learned how to work together and how to divide the work,” she said.
The projects were judged by volunteers. The top 15 will advance to the state level hosted at University of Nevada, Reno, on April 26. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Ben Contine, implementation specialist for the Carson City School District, was among the judges.
“There’s a real blending of strong research and modern technology,” Contine said. “They’re going beyond the retelling of history to the evaluation of history. That’s what I’ve been particularly impressed with.”