Allie Tubbs ’19 made it to nationals for the first time for National History Day doing a performance. She tried NHD after watching her brother do it, and ended up falling in love with it herself. “While at nationals I sat in on some of the performances,” Tubbs said. “There was this one performance that was really powerful and I was really inspired to try doing a performance myself.”
Tubbs continues to do a performance for National History Day every year.
National History Day (NHD) is an annual competition where students put together a project about a topic that relates to a theme. The theme changes every year; this year the theme is taking a stand in history. The students choose a type of project that speaks to them, and take it as far as they can. Each project has it’s own set of requirements that the students have to work within, but it still gives them plenty of room to creatively represent their topic to it’s potential.
Allie Tubbs ’19 does a performance for National History Day, and has competed since sixth grade, making it to nationals four times. She has 10 minutes to perform, and show her historically accurate presentation. Her topic this year is Fannie Lou Hamer. “She was an African American woman who was apart of the SNCC organization and began to demand her constitutional right to vote,” Tubbs said.
She puts a lot of consideration into her topic choice for the year. “Honestly, choosing a topic each year is the hardest thing for me. I didn’t choose this topic until late October. I always try to look for lesser known people just to be able to tell a story that people may not have heard before. I love civil rights history, so I was really trying to look in that direction.”
Maddie Gregurek ’18 has made it to state four times, including this year. For National History Day, Gregurek chooses to create an exhibit about her topic this year of the 1938 Maytag Strike. “I chose this topic because it was a local topic in Newton Iowa,” Gregurek said. “Some of my family lives there so I was there a lot, and one day I found out about the strike, which was absolutely huge. They called the national guard and it was one of Iowa’s biggest strikes in history. But it had little to no historical or media attention, even though it dominated newspapers from Chicago to Britain. So I really thought it needed to be demonstrated somehow, even if it was just through a history day project.”
Social studies and Extended Learning Program (ELP) teacher Sue Cline is one of the supervisors for National History Day. She oversees and guides the students as they bring their topic to life in whatever way they choose. “Number one, the purpose is competition and some students just love competition,” Cline said. “But it also teaches research and presentation skills in writing, drama, media, or websites. It’s primary usage is critical thinking skills.”
Cline believes National History Day is a way for students to nourish and cultivate these skills into something they can carry on forever. “Johnston does very well at NHD,” Cline said. “In fact we do so well that other schools go to different districts so they don’t have to compete against us. One thing that helps us with that is that we start early, in 6th or 7th grade. It’s part of ELP class so the kids get good training. They have time and support to learn how to do it well. And it’s always good when you have a successful program, people want to be a part of it.”
This year Johnston had 19 students advance to state and 13 students advance to nationals. “I continue to participate in NHD because I love it,” Tubbs said. “I have learned so much and will continue to carry all the lessons I have learned with me for the rest of my life. There’s this feeling at nationals of accomplishment and understanding of why we are all there. We can all learn so much from history, and I intend to learn as much as I can through NHD.”
Not everyone is in NHD for the competition aspect. Some people like the process more than the competition itself. “It’s something I really really like,” Gregurek said. “College level research, once you get into it, can get really addicting. I just love the process of it, and I have a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something that I would not want to give up.”