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Students Earn National Honors for History Day Research

Outstanding State Medal for Website

Since l995 Padua state winners at Delaware History Day have qualified for and have been finalists at the National History Day competition conducted annually at the University of Maryland. Last year, Maria Sutton’s paper on the 1898 U.S.S. Maine incident earned 8th place in the nation, won the Captain Ken Coskey Naval History prize, was published by the Naval History Magazine and was one of two papers posted on the NHD website as a teaching model. In addition to Maria’s paper, Nicole Du and Emily Evans’ exhibit on the cinematic and cultural impact of Disney’s Snow White (“The Fairest Movie of them All”) placed 13th in the nation. For the 2014 competition, seven Padua students in Dan Mahler’s history class qualified for nationals and one group website continued a virtually unbroken tradition of earning both the “Best State Entry” and making the national finals.

For 2014, Juniors Lauren Davis, Erin Spadaccini and Abigail Strusowski finished 10th nationally and earned the “Outstanding State” medal for their website Responsibility on Trial: The State of Israel v. Adolf Eichmann. Part of the challenge of the seven-month-long project was collaborating on ideas and execution. The students relied on Google Docs as a common repository for their individual research efforts using primary sources, imbedding interviews and videos of the trial, and consulting scholarly works. “From the beginning, we explored each other’s talents,” said Erin. “We had Sunday virtual meetings and group email chats.” At the state competition in April, the judges awarded the students first place but suggested that they prepare for nationals by getting a first-person interview of someone who was in Israel during the trial of Eichmann, a Nazi who escaped to Argentina. The students contacted Rami Goren, who supplied a compelling testimony of his memory, as well as reactions to the Eichmann’s trial and subsequent execution as told by family members and neighbors. Lauren added, “We came away from this project inspired by what we learned. As Mr. Goren told us, ‘Inhuman treatment is not just a Jewish issue. . . Our hope is first and foremost in educating young people to have both realistic understanding and compassion. Having met you girls, I get the sense that we have both. The future is indeed bright.’”

Delaware’s entries at nationals also included projects from Kary Santayana, Rebecca Bolten, Helena Bush, Laura Tomlinson, and Deborah Whiteman who competed in the exhibit, website and documentary categories respectively. Kary’s project on the Guerrilla Girls feminist artists combined her proclivities for art and design. About her experience at nationals Kary commented, “I learned just how passionate I am about all things art and feminism.” Rebecca Bolten’s website on The Espionage Act of l9l7 allowed her to connect historical antecedents to present day controversies such as the Edward Snowden case. Rebecca described the History Day journey as “one of the most memorable and fun projects I have ever done.” Helena Bush’s website explored the benefits and challenges of the l963 Community Mental Health Act and the legal “Journey to Deinstitutionalization.” For Laura Tomlinson’s documentary, the experience was “personal and “incredibly rewarding.” Inspiration came from both a Delaware World War II-era landmark and the interview with her great-grandfather, Horace Knowles, who served at Fort Miles during the war and to whom she dedicated her film. Laura was “surprised that there is such an interesting piece of history that is so close to us.” Deborah Whiteman traveled to the Sewall Belmont Museum, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Library of Congress in order to research her documentary on the origins of women’s suffrage.

History Day is a Junior year independent research project introduced in September with the state contest in April. Winners qualify for national competition in June which brings together thousands of students from all 50 states, U.S. territories and American schools in Europe and Asia who compete for a spot among the top 14, as well as for special prizes. Throughout the year, Padua students must meet research and project milestones, attend help sessions (even on Saturdays), and consult regularly with teachers and the librarian. Deborah Whiteman considered herself “blessed” for the staff support and praised the teachers “for their guidance and love of history.” And for some, hard work rewards them with an exciting experience at National History Day as described by Rebecca Bolton: “Throughout our stay at the University of Maryland, we made friends from around the country. . . All participants were respectful and kind to one another so the atmosphere was welcoming and exciting. Pin trading was also surprisingly fun! Even though I did not win an official award, I won an unforgettable experience and new friends.”   To next year’s History Day students, Laura Tomlinson encourages, “I really surprised myself with how much fun I had with this project. There is so much hidden history out there for us to discover if we only look hard enough.”

 

Padua Academy 905 N. Broom Street
Wilmington, DE 19806
(302) 421-3739

Rooted in the Catholic faith, Padua Academy offers young women a transformational college preparatory education, challenging them to live Christ-centered lives of leadership and service.