Celebrating National History Day At St. Martin’s-In-The-Field

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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” - Marcus Garvey, international journalist/publisher.

For 14 eighth-graders at St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School, those words came to fruition as they dug into the roots of past events and did months of research to celebrate National History Day on February 9.

The project, which was presented to the students in September, became one of their classes. The theme for all of these projects was “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.”

The team of eighth-grade history teacher Tracy Alexander and the school’s librarian and lower school technology teacher, Penny Murnane, attended a webinar in August with the National Education Association, which outlined what’s involved with National History Day. They believed this would be a great project for the students to be involved with as they were preparing to go to high school.

“They did the research in class and at home, and I was impressed by how dedicated they were to the project,” Murnane said. “The students met for class every Thursday to continue their research and to share progress updates.”

The 14 students chose subjects that had topics as far-reaching as Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The students chose to create a website, documentary, write a paper, perform or make an exhibit.

“They all had great enthusiasm for this project, and I was a resource for them,” Murnane said. “Some even used the Library of Congress as well as used all of the other avenues for research including interviewing their parents and grandparents.”

St. Martin’s is using this historical project to boost their students’ high school resumes as they finalize plans on what high school to go to next year. St. Martin’s is a prekindergarten to eighth grade facility that has met five days a week this year. There are 225 students at the Benfield Road school.

“One of the great aspects of the project is how the students accomplished independent research and to learn primary and secondary sources in their research,” Murnane said. “They also learned how to make an annotated bibliography, which will be crucial in their high school career.”

The students presented their projects to a team of independent judges via Zoom, and the students who were selected to earn first and second place were eligible to compete with other students from across the county. Students who received first, second and third place were provided ribbons, and everyone received a certificate for their accomplishments.

Students Isabella Stees (first place in Individual Documentary), Nick Melfi (second place in Individual Documentary) and Helena Tawil (first place in Individual Performance) have since qualified for the regional competition, allowing them to participate virtually in the statewide Maryland History Day competition along with students from homeschool and other private and public schools from around the state.

Overall, the St. Martin’s projects were:

Individual Exhibit

Emery Hein – Passing on Peace (first place)

Teddy Mosher – Agriculture: Communication through Collaboration (second place)

Aidan Treff – Ancient Greek Communication (third place)

Blake Austin – Communication with Morse Code

Jay Donyinah – The Maryland State Building

Nora Tegeler – Anne Boleyn

Marie Van Wie – LGBT Milestones in Protests

Individual Documentary

Isabella Stees – The Assassination of JFK (first place)

Nicholas Melfi – Communicating on the Underground Railroad (second place)

Ryan Hunsicker – How Miscommunication Led to Pearl Harbor (third place)

Cooper Pasko – How the Navajo Code Talkers Changed WWII

Drew Synder- 9-11: The Communications and Miscommunications

Individual Website

Harper Reagoso – The Women’s Rights Movement

Individual Performance

Helena Tawil – Walking with Harriet Tubman

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