With his victory at the state level, Jialin advanced to represent Massachusetts last week in the National History Day competition.
As Jialin Chen and his family sat around their dinner table, he watched the clock anxiously and hit the refresh button at the top of his computer’s internet browser. Within a few seconds,the video appeared on the National History Day website.
As he and his family watched the virtual awards ceremony on YouTube, his excitement grew as the judges announced the Honorable Mention, Third Place, and Second Place winners. Finally, Jialin heard his name announced as the winner of Massachusetts’ National History Day Competition. It was not the ceremony Jialin envisioned when he started his project, but the First Place Award thrilled the 8th grader nonetheless.
“There’s always that element of anxiety when you’re waiting, even in the comfort of your own home. After my name was called, we began cheering,” said Jialin.
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society, Massachusetts History Day is the state affiliate of the National History Day (NHD) competition sponsored by the University of Maryland. More than 6,000 students in grades 6-12 enter the state competition each year.
Students from CM’s 8th grade History of Boston course complete a project as part of the coursework which they submit to the contest. Mrs. Barbara Flynn, a member of the History and Social Studies Department, added this project to the curriculum seven years ago. After selecting a topic, students conduct primary source research to write a research paper and create a documentary, exhibit, performance, or website based on their research. Students can complete the project individually or as part of a small group.
Each year, NHD creates a theme to guide students’ selection of a topic and research; this year’s contest theme was “Breaking Barriers in History.” For his project, Jialin created a website to document the Space Race.
“Ever since I was small, I’ve always enjoyed space-related books and other things. That interest had waned a little.But when NHD rolled around this year and I was introduced to the year’s topic, I decided to revitalize my interest in space by researching the Space Race,” said Jialin.
Mrs. Flynn expressed great admiration for her student’s research efforts.
“Jialin’s passion for his topic was quite evident in the website he created for the Space Racewhich focused on not only getting to space in a timely fashion, but it also stressedthe importance for inclusion of all NASA scientists, women and all races, as well as the avenues of space exploration in today’s day and age. His creation offered a fresh new perspective on the Space Race which was quite unique,” said Mrs. Flynn.
With his victory, Jialin advanced to represent Massachusetts last week in the National History Day competition, which featured all state winners. This is the second consecutive year that a CM student has won the state competition and advanced to the national contest. Last year, Logan Roberts, a current freshman, won the state competition with his project on the Harlem Hellfighters.
This year, a record number of 8th grade students qualified for the National History DayState Competition. In addition to Jialin, Daniel Gaffney, T.J. Elrod, Alex Pappas, and Declan Smyth represented CM in the competition.
Working collaboratively, Daniel Gaffney and Declan Smyth’s project titled, “D-Day: The Turning Point - June 6,1944”received recognition for First Place Junior Best Project in Maritime History Award that was sponsored by the National Maritime Historical Society.
“Under the leadership of Mrs. Flynn, National History Day has become not only a rite of passage for 8th graders, but also a measure of the excellence of our students,” said Mr. Vin Bradley, chair of the History and Social Studies Department.
“The consistency of this outstanding record of achievement reflects the expertise, experience, and dedication of Mrs. Flynn and her partnership with so many wonderful students and families,” said Mr. Bradley.