National History Day
By Morgan Adcock
MTSU/Seigenthaler News Service
To some, a history project is just another assignment, but the students at Clayton-Bradley Academy call their National History Day projects, “passion projects.”
National History Day is a nonprofit organization that hosts a competition for middle and high school students around the world. The students conduct original research on historical topics.
Clayton-Bradley Academy requires all seventh and eighth graders to participate, and educators Nicole Whitecotton and Liz Shugart coach those who move beyond regional competitions. High school students are not required to enter but are encouraged. This academic year 13 students from CBA progressed to the national level at the University of Maryland, June 9 to June 13. This year’s theme is “Triumph and tragedy.”
The students who will be going to the national competition are: Sophie Anderson, Melanie Band, Ian Boghani, Layla Bowman, Francisco Camacho Piper Greene, Tate Greene, Luke Hutchinson, Macy Jackson, Lawrence Mancini, Sam McNeal, Shelby McNeal andRiley Whitecotton.
According to Nicole Whitecotton, the annotated bibliography of these projects runs from eight to 20 pages long, and they’re doing that at 12, 13 and 14 years old.
“So by the time they go to college they are ready,” Nicole Whitecotton said, more than a little proud of the students’ work. “They have actually done research at the primary level. These are stories that no one else in the world have heard before. We have historians at CBA, they are recording history for posterity,” she added.
Students not only have to showcase their projects, but they also have to defend them. Judges ask the students questions that can be a little tough to answer.
“I’ve always been so nervous going into the questions, because for the documentary competition I just had to push play, but the questions made me have to think on my feet. At this point now I’m just having conversations with the judges, and I actually enjoy it because I get to share all of the research that I have done with them which I think can only benefit you as you move up in competition,” Shelby McNeal added.
Two senior division students, Tate Greene and McNeal studied the life of a 91-year-old woman who is a health activist from eastern Kentucky. “I’ve learned that you can’t be paralyzed by fear. I’ve learned that you have to find something that you love and want to work at, and just do it because there is nothing stopping you ever,” Greene.
Nicole Whitecotton forced back tears as her student, Layla Bowman, spoke about what her National History Day competition project, a study of Clifford W. Beers and learning about his involvement in the American Mental Hygiene Movement, which focused on improvements in the mental health field.
“What makes us so motivated to do this project is because we can actually make our own impact on the future.” After researching the history of mental health in the U.S., Layla and fellow classmates, Macy Jackson and Lawrence Mancini, knew that this was a topic worth discussing.
“That’s what we want to do with our project, we want to bring awareness about mental health,” Bowman said.
“When you choose a topic that’s interesting, for example women’s history, and I get to connect with my project, it’s like oh I feel like I relate to this in some way, then it starts to become fun and feels less like a history project and more like a fun project,” Melanie Band states.
Clayton-Bradley has earned wins in the competition on the state and national levels.
“When you connect with a project, you become really motivated to pursue it. We are constantly improving the projects after every level of competition and yes there are struggles but I think it really pays off,” said last year’s national co-winners, Luke Hutchinson, an eighth grader.
Hutchinson’s research partner from last year, Ian Boghani agreed.
“It all really does pay off.”
Morgan Adcock is a Middle Tennessee State University journalism student. She is in Blount County as part of a feature writing class called the Road Trip Class.