Los Alamos Students Traveling to National History Day Competition

Los Alamos Middle School students celebrate their achievements at the state National History Day Competition. Second from left, Ruby Selvage and second from right, Kathryn McClenahan, placed first in junior group performance with a play on the development of the Soviet Atomic Bomb. Miriam Wallstrom, center, placed second with her junior individual website on the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Courtesy photo


Students from the Los Alamos Public Schools won 11 awards at the recent statewide National History Day (NHD) contest, and eight of those students are going to the national contest in the nation’s capital next month.

The state winning students are:

  • Sophomores Kimberly Pestovich, Yamira Dejesus, and Kaylen Pocaterra, who won first place for their senior group exhibit on “Building the Railroad: A Vehicle to Opportunity and Success”
  • Senior Emily McClenahan, who won first place with her senior individual documentary, “Dress Rehearsal For Hell: The Meridian Campaign, a Turning Point in History and Modern Warfare”
  • Sophomore Anne Scripsick, who won second place with her senior individual exhibit on “Fighting The Speckled Monster” about the small pox vaccine
  • 7th graders Ruby Selvage and Kathryn McClenahan, who won first place in junior group performance for “Atomic Age Act II: The Russian Atomic Bomb”
  • 7th grader Miriam Wallstrom, who won second place in junior individual website for her project, “The 13th Amendment: Free At Last”

The students will travel to the University of Maryland and compete against students from around the country June 1013 at the national NHD contest. NHD is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Each year, more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide participate in NHD. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites.

The theme this year is: Turning Points in History.

After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances, and documentaries. These products are entered into competitions in the spring at local, state, and national levels where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators. The program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest each June held at the University of Maryland at College Park.

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, NHD also helps students develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • critical thinking and problemsolving skills
  • research and reading skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

In all, 19 Los Alamos students with 15 projects competed at the state competition April 26 in Albuquerque. Other statewide awards to Los Alamos students include:

  • State Historian’s Award for best use of a New Mexico Archive, Emily McClenahan
  • Best use of primary medical sources, Anna Scripsick
  • Best project on Western History, Justin Lemke for his junior individual performance about the gold rush
  • Best use of primary Native American sources, Sophia Sivils for her project on the Cherokee Trail of Tears
  • 3rd place, junior group website to Karyssa Garcia and Meghan Romero for “The Fight to Vote”
  • 3rd place, junior individual performance to Anna Lemke for “Childhood Lost”

Another big winner was Caroline Haagenstad, a 7th grade social studies and language arts teacher at Los Alamos Middle School who won the prestigious Patricia Behring Teacher’s Award.

In New Mexico, NHD is sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council. Workshops are given around the state each autumn help teachers integrate National History Day activities into the curriculum. For more information, please contact the NM Humanities Council at 505-633-7370 or info@nmhum.org.


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