Los Alamos Students Win First at State National History Day Competition


Ruby Selvage and Kathryn McClenahan accepting a special award from the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum for the best project on agriculture and rural life (with staff from the museum). Photo by Kim Selvage

A pair of Piñon Elementary 6th graders won first place at the statewide National History Day competition on April 27 in Albuquerque.

Kathryn McClenahan and Ruby Selvage will be part of the New Mexico delegation at the national NHD competition in College Park, MD, June 10-14. Their project, a performance entitled “Land Where Our Children Die: The Reactions and Reforms of the Dust Bowl,” examines how people dealt with the hardships of the Dust Bowl and the reforms that came about in agriculture in the 1930s.

National History Day is a year-long academic program focused on historical research for 6th to 12th grade students. Each year, more than half a million students nationwide participate in the NHD contest. 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. This year’s them for National History Day is “revolution, reaction, and reform.”

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. The statewide competition in New Mexico is sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council.

Several special awards are also presented at the state NHD contest. In addition to their first place in junior group performance, McClenahan and Selvage won an award from the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces for the best project on agriculture and rural life.

Other Los Alamos winners at the competition were Xiaoyu Deng, a freshman at Los Alamos High School, who received an ipad from the Center for Southwest Research in honor of the New Mexico state centennial. Deng’s project was a senior individual exhibit on the Manhattan Project.

Emily McClenahan, a Los Alamos high school junior, won an award from Brigham Young University for the best project on western history. Her project was a senior individual exhibit on the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Los Alamos Historical Society also offers a special award each year for the best project on the Manhattan Project or the Cold War. This year’s award went to a middle-school student at Albuquerque Christian School for her junior individual documentary on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.


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