History Day draws 131 contestants
A tangle of children, dads and moms graced the halls of the Nevada State Museum on Saturday for History Day, a competition that attracted participants from all over Northern Nevada.
Students choose any topic for this annual competition, investigating its historical significance through exhibits, papers, and oral performances. This year’s theme, “Revolution, Reaction and Reform in History,” inspired students in the 6th through the 12th grades to delve into topics like black leaders, famous battles, and conflicts that changed the course of history.
Eric Darragh, a 13-year-old from Dayton Intermediate School, stood quietly by his display of Jackie Robinson, the first black to play baseball in the major leagues.
“He changed the face of sports for blacks. Without him, Michael Jordan would not be where he is today,” he said with quiet conviction. “He had the guts to go out and play even though he was kicked and beaten up. He was the best choice to step over the line.”
The 7th-grader admitted he was nervous, but he said he was glad to be at the competition, knowing he’d done his best.
Inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Shelbey Wanner, a sixth-grader at Pershing County Middle School in Lovelock, researched the origins of the “The Star-Spangled Banner. “
She said she worked three months on the project, competing in two other contests before coming here.
“I liked learning something that most people don’t know,” she said. “But the toughest part was the research, finding the right information.”
This year’s competition attracted 131 entrants, more than twice last year’s numbers, according to Bob Nylen, curator of history at the Nevada State Museum. He said every child who participated Saturday is a winner.
“I’m sold on history, and I want to get others into it,” he said. “History is more than dates and facts. Competitions like these get children into their topics. They must think critically and ask questions. I love to see this kind of energy at the museum.”
This is the first year the competition has had a full-time coordinator and Nylen credits much of this year’s success to John Barker, who accepted the position.
“I’m a retired teacher and I’m grateful for the chance to continue working with young people,” Barker said.
To facilitate the program, he and Nylen conduct training sessions for teachers in techniques for developing papers and exhibits.
“The State Museum System is very supportive. We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
Barker said this event promotes intellectual development in addition to helping students hone their research and presentation skills.
Competitors are divided into junior and senior divisions and those placing first and second in each of four categories are eligible for the national competition, scheduled June 9-13 in College Park, Md.
The event is sponsored by the Nevada Humanities Committee.
— Russell Elliott prize from the Nevada Corral of Westerners International for the best entry on Western history – $350 – Mackenzie Hodges, Pershing County Middle School
— Frances Humphrey prize from the Nevada State Museum for the best exhibit – $200 – Bryce Phillips, Pershing County Middle School
— Hazel Bretzlaff Van Allen prize from the Nevada State Museum for the best of show – $300 – McKenzie Loye, Hayley Huntley, Angel Driggs, Kate Reeser, Elizabeth Hodgdon, Swope Middle School
— Grace Dangberg prize for the best paper – $100 – Alex Chichester, Swope Middle School
— Grace Danberg prize for the best 20th-century entry – $100 – Jennifer Young, Swope Middle school
— Southwest Oil History Association prize for the best documentary – $100 – Jessi Brinkerhoff, Pershing County Middle School
— Nevada Mining Association prize for the best entry on mining or technology – $100 – Stephen Cox and Buck Marion, I Can Do Anything Charter High School