July 21, 2024
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MDS Celebrates National History Day Victory

In the heart of the pandemic this past summer, an energetic group of MDS students met weekly for a six-week online course to conceptualize their projects for NYC National History Day 2021. The theme, Communication Throughout History, was never more poignant, as they struggled to communicate amongst themselves and with others in their new isolated reality.

The National History Day program has been authorized by the United States Congress, and is recognized as the nation’s oldest and most highly regarded history program for students in grades six through 12. Throughout the school year, the students worked diligently and enthusiastically to illustrate their topics. In the process, they not only honed their research and writing skills but their leadership skills as well. By March 2021, after countless hours of hard work, the projects were completed. The result: Almost all of the 20 projects submitted by MDS students, many of which won first or second place in their categories, moved on to the state competition.

“It was inspiring to see the students’ hard work and dedication during this challenging time,” says Allison Sobel, middle school social studies teacher and program coordinator. “We competed against some of the best private and public schools in the city and came out on top.”

The projects took the format of exhibit boards, papers, websites, documentaries and performances and ran the gamut from the trial of Leo Frank, to the bed-ins of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, to the controversy surrounding Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist.

“National History Day taught me how to work independently and efficiently,” says Elena Bakhchi, who researched the life of Anne Frank and how she impacted today’s generations. The project won second place in the individual website category. “One lesson I took from her is to always be grateful.”

“What I loved about NHD was the ability to learn about a topic from all different angles as well as understand its historical context,” says Zev Horwitz, who created a documentary with Yoel Serraf on The Navajo Code Talkers that took second place. “It was also an opportunity to work with someone who has a different skill set than I do.”

The students’ experiences helped them learn and grow in ways far beyond what’s possible in the classroom. They are looking forward to hearing the results of the state competition on April 30.

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