Each spring, middle and high school students, accompanied by their history teachers, look forward to History Day. After many students spent hours on their projects, they feared History Day might be canceled this year due to the coronavirus. However, teachers in the state are “pulling together” to find a way to carry on the tradition. With the help of Trampas Alderman, curator of education and public engagement at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee, the planned event was made possible.
“The continuation of this year’s Florida History Day state competition was a team effort involving students, faculty, and judges from across the state as well as State Department staff. of Florida and the National History Day staff, ”Alderman said.
However, the organizers, along with the students who competed, had to make a number of changes in order to comply with quarantine rules and security measures. Along with these changes, challenges tested the creativity and ingenuity of the students.
Projects such as documentaries, websites and articles were easy to adapt to a virtual environment. However, the exhibits and performances, which are meant to be seen in person, were more difficult to put on virtually.
Ellie Brannan and Hayley Crews, juniors at Weeki Wachee High School, were already working on a performance to present their project, titled “Hey Siri, Open Google Translate,” when the pandemic struck.
“Instead of taking the time between the districts and the state competition to make improvements to the project, as usual, we have become stagnant,” said Hayley.
“So when they finally announced that the competition would always be held virtually, we had to hurry up and quickly make improvements to our script and our project to get it in shape for the state level.”
Ellie added, “Working together over the past year, we could easily plan to get together to work on our project and being able to talk to each other in person made it easy for us to understand each other’s vision. Working on our project through FaceTime was not something we were used to.
Although Dylan Karnow, Evan Pearson, Nicolas Anile, Riley Staller and Walker
Keller-Henderson, who are all freshmen at Weeki Wachee High School, completed their project before the coronavirus outbreak, they still encountered a few challenges. Their website project, titled “The Visionary Flight of NACA: Changing Ideas of Aviation Through the Sound-Breaking Flight” details Chuck Yeager’s historic accomplishments.
Dylan Karnow commented: “It was difficult to find the website builder because he was different from last year”.
Nicolas Anile adds: “The organization and the choice of roles for each were difficult at the beginning, but we quickly got over them.
Obviously, it was a disappointment for both groups of students not to be able to travel to Tallahassee to present their projects in person, after qualifying for the state competition. In the end, despite the challenges, their hard work paid off. Ellie and Hayley placed third overall in Tallahassee. Dylan, Evan, Nicolas, Riley and Walker placed sixth state level against stiff competition.
Developing a plan on how to judge projects was another challenge for the organizers. Interviews by the judges with the competitors, an important part of the competition, could not take place. History Day staff and judges exchanged thousands of emails during the judgment.
“Our biggest challenge was communication. With students, teachers, and judges scattered across the state, email has become our primary medium. With the schools closing, teachers had difficulty reaching their students. In the end, the plan worked with only minor issues, ”Alderman noted.
Hayley and Ellie are both seasoned History Day competitors and have worked together on projects in the past. They chose the subject of translation after learning the Rosetta Stone in humanities class.
First, they researched the Rosetta Stone. Discovered in 1799, it dates back to 196 BC and was used by archaeologists to decipher the ancient hieroglyphic code. He was also the pioneer of modern translation technology. They highlighted the ongoing struggles over language barriers, culminating with Google Translate.
The use of primary resources, as well as secondary resources, is one of the research requirements for all History Day projects. This presented a challenge for the girls.
“Because our subject dates back to 196 BC, it was difficult to find primary sources in our research. Additionally, the shops and museums closed due to the coronavirus outbreak have made it nearly impossible to talk to historians and purchase things to improve our costumes and accessories, ”said Hayley.
Additional work was required as the girls had to submit their full script, along with a lengthy description of the scene-by-scene details, including dialogue, costume description, backdrop description, and a list of props. In total, the duo spent four months preparing for their performance.
The boys worked on their website for about two months. They had worked together on smaller projects before, so their familiarity with each other made the process easier.
In their research, the group discovered a lot about the efforts of the flight that first broke the sound barrier. They described this on their website.
“[The project showed] all barriers that were broken during the flight. Both the physical barrier and also the mentality that it could be done. We also covered the technological and aeronautical advancements made through flight, ”commented Dylan.
They decided to create a website rather than an exhibit or some other format in part because Dylan had made a website for a previous project.
“We thought that by creating a website we would be able to tell the story of supersonic flight better and, through the use of things like photography, audio and video, we would be able to better relate us to the theme, ”said Nicolas.
Despite the challenges and disappointment of not being able to participate in person at the district and state level, there were still rewards and the students gained a lot from their experience.
“This has been a rewarding year because it has shown how much everyone is able to stay strong and adapt given the pandemic and the move to virtual competition,” said Hayley.
“I felt most rewarded to hear the comments of our judges on our performance. It felt good to know that, even through a virtual competition, the judges were still able to appreciate our hard work and understand the overall message we were trying to convey, ”concluded Ellie.
Unfortunately, there is no video to watch online of Ellie and Hayley’s performance. However, if you want to visit the website created by Dylan, Evan, Nicolas, Riley and Walker, go to https://site.nhd.org/73833441/home
Perhaps it is symbolic that the theme of History Day 2020 was “Breaking down the barriers of history”. This year has been one of meeting many challenges and breaking down many barriers.