BY AIYANA FORTIN
The Vermont Journal
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Over 3,000 competing students in grades 612 from around the world convened at the University of Maryland for the National History Day competition from June 1216, 2016. Each student worked to create an historical project and placed first or second in their own affiliate competitions, qualifying each project for the national competition.
National History Day is a competition where students with an interest in history choose an historical topic, fit it to the yearly theme, and present their research in a coherent way. This involves a tremendous amount of research, time, effort, and dedication.
Each individual or group can present their findings as an exhibit, documentary, historical paper, website, or performance. Participants are categorized by age and group size.
This year’s theme was “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.” Each project was encouraged to fit all aspects of the theme and acknowledge more than one perspective. An example would be the exploration of territory in Western America, the encounter of indigenous peoples, and the exchange of diseases and cultures. A superior project would include firsthand perspectives from both the explorers and the indigenous populations.
Aiyana Fortin, rising senior at Black River High School, qualified to represent Vermont at the National History Day competition for her documentary titled: “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange: The Evolution of the Medical Profession Resulting from the Holocaust.” Her themed project included information about exploratory medical experiments during the Nazi Regime in Germany, the encounters of opposition from foreign leaders and the Catholic church, and the exchange of information afterwards that resulted in the Nuremberg Code and increased concern for the wellbeing of voluntary participants in medical research.
At the National competition, Ms. Fortin received an award, “Best in Vermont: Senior Division,” for her aforementioned project. In addition, her advisor, Suzette Cyr, was awarded the VermontNEA History Day Educator of the Year Award, a $250 prize for demonstrating superb guidance of History Day students and commitment to the growth and betterment of the National History Day program. Her dedication and drive encouraged all of the local middle school students and many local elementary school students to research an interesting historical project and present their information to other students, parents, and teachers.
“The goal of the National History Day competition is to give students an opportunity to be historians to research a topic that the students find intriguing and engaging, and to share that historical research and presentation with interested adults, beyond teachers and parents,” Victoria Hughes, Vermont state coordinator, says about her involvement with the National History Day program, “At History Day, the students learn a lot about history, presentation skills, and often teamwork.” History Day provides an incredible outlet for historical research and curiosity, and everyone involved hopes to see the competition grow in years to come.