Congratulations to the students of Sacred Heart School in Bayside for their award-winning history projects! Each year, more than half of a million students participate in National History Day by choosing a historical topic and conducting a research presentation. This presentation is not simply a couple weeks of work, or even a semester. Students conducting this research commit themselves to it for the entire year.
Fourteen students from the school competed in the local History Day Competition and half of them made it to States (all students listed with photo). Jenna Alma, Robyn Alma, Sienna DeBenedittis and Christine McLaughlin won third place in the State competition as well as the Ancient Order of Hibernian’s Award for Irish History for their research on the Irish Potato Famine. Students Gabrielle Vance, Kathryn Pender, and Maria Caminiti will move on to present at National History Day in Washington D.C.
“I am proud of Sacred Heart’s achievement over the past few years because they have consistently won awards in competition with the finest public and private schools in New York City. Advancing beyond to the State and National level is phenomenal. The National History competition is a worthwhile educational endeavor: winning is wonderful but participating is an enriching opportunity for all students. I hope that Sacred Heart’s success spurs more Catholic elementary schools and high schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn to enter the competition,” said Mr. Anthony Biscione, Deputy Superintendent of Schools.
“They meet regularly and even in the summer. They give up their time every single week. These are 12 and 14 year-old children who are perceived as not being interested in anything and they follow through for a year. To me, the beauty of this project is that life-lesson: you commit yourself to something and you follow through. That’s the biggest thing that we can give our children,” said Mr. Dennis Farrell, Principal at Sacred Heart School in Bayside.
The work that goes into the history project comes from the nature of the project itself. Annually, a general theme, such as this year’s “Turning Points in History,” is selected. Then, students can take creative steps. They choose a topic that fits the general theme and they are given options such as creating a website, doing a performance interpretation, creating a video documentary, a presentation board, and more. Additionally they must write a research paper, write an extensive bibliography, present their projects, and field questions from a panel of judges that they do not know.
“We can’t ask them to miss this opportunity to be in such tremendous arena where they will be interacting with children from the entire country,” Farrell noted as he explained that they were rescheduling the students’ graduates Mass and reception due to the competition.
When students were asked how they felt now that they had completed their projects, the answer might shock some… they are bored. “We don’t know what to do anymore,” agreed many students, “this is what we do.” Ultimately, they were simply excited for the following year. Those moving on to high school hope to continue to participate.
“Last year a group of eighth graders that went to Townsend Harris High School convinced school to allow them to participate as an elective because they enjoyed it so much. Now, students find themselves running into their old classmates at competitions so it really is a lot of fun,” says Farrell.
Immense gratitude was expressed by both Farrell and student parents towards the school’s eighth grade teacher and project moderator, Ms. MaryAnn Cooke. Cooke is present after-school to provide students opportunities to do their research. She has accompanied these students to every competition and is looking forward to Nationals!