In the 40-year history of National History Day (NHD) competition in North Carolina, never has there been a season like this one. Only two of the seven regional competitions to select participants in the state competition had taken place when the pandemic struck. Many students had spent the year preparing for the contest, held annually at the Museum of History in Raleigh. With stay-at-home orders, most academic contests and extracurricular activities were canceled. All those performances, exhibits, documentaries, papers and websites might have been created for naught.
“The National History Day staff in College Park, Md., and its affiliates and regional hosts felt strongly that we should carry on with virtual contest formats,” explains North Carolina NHD Coordinator Karen Ipock. “We thought the hard work of the students and teachers for the year should be showcased.”
More than 1,000 students soldiered on to participate in the five virtual regional contests and combined with the onsite contests, approximately 5,000 students competed across North Carolina. Of that number 360 students from 62 schools participated in the virtual state contest. Of those, 36 projects involving 66 students from 26 schools will participate in the now virtual National History Day competition June 14-20. While websites, documentaries and papers easily made the transition to virtual, performances and exhibits presented challenges.
“Students had to navigate school closures with exhibits locked inside, working with teammates and teachers remotely, spotty Wi-Fi and internet service, figuring out how to turn exhibits into virtual displays, and how to do online research using libraries, museum collections and archives,” Ipock adds. “Performance students had to convey their performances, sets and costumes in a written script.”
Undeterred, perhaps students were demonstrating the 2020 NHD theme, “Breaking Barriers in History.” Topics ranged widely and included the Union Raid on Swansboro, the Edenton Tea Party, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, Berlin Wall, Roman Empire, Aretha Franklin, Ellen DeGeneres and the Beatles.
Special cash prizes went to 38 projects excelling in certain topical areas, and four teacher awards were presented. Two Joseph B. Hughes state-level awards were presented, to Ian Canary-King of ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa and to Stephanie Noles of Junius Rose High School in Greenville.
Two teachers were nominated for national teacher awards that include more money and will be named during nationals in June. The nominee for the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award is Elizabeth
Crowell, Davis Drive Middle School, Cary. The nominee for the Hannah E. (Liz) MacGregor Teacher of the Year Award is Bethany Steward of Wayne School of Engineering in Goldsboro.
The 26 schools to advance the National History Day Competition are:
Hendersonville Middle School, Rugby Middle School, Great Expectations, Hendersonville High School, all of Hendersonville; Gryphon Academy, Crossnore; ArtSpace Charter School, Swannanoa; Swain County Middle School, Bryson City; Cane Creek Middle School, Fletcher; Watauga High School, Boone
Mount Airy Middle School, Mount Airy; Woodlawn School, Davidson; Hanes Magnate School, Winston-Salem; Davis Drive Middle School, Cary Academy, and St. Michael the Archangel, all of Cary; Oak Tree Academy, Roxboro; Ardrey Kell High School, Charlotte; Ledford Senior High School, Thomasville; The Hawbridge School, Saxapahaw; Early College at Guilford, Greensboro
St. Peters Catholic School and Oakwood School, Greenville; Myrtle Grove Middle School, New Hanover High School, Cape Fear Academy, all of Wilmington; Croatan High School, Newport;
The support to make possible the History Day competition came from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, community colleges, local history societies, museums, public libraries, teachers and individual history enthusiasts.
N.C. History Day is managed by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The N.C. program’s primary sponsors are the North Caroliniana Society and the Federation of North Carolina Historical Societies.