The freshman earnedthe“Best Use of Maps as a Primary Source” prize from the National History Day competition in Massachusetts.
West Roxbury, Mass.—Last month, freshman TJ Elrodfelt a special sense of pride when hetookhomehisNational History Day contest prize.His inspirationfor the project—which took home the award for thecompetition’sbest use of maps as a primary source—occurredwell over a yearbefore he began.
Last July in Warsaw, Poland,to be exact.
For 10 dayslast year, TJ and his familyhadtravelled to Poland on a family vacation.TJ, then a rising 8thgrader at Catholic Memorial School,saidthe trip proved a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore his interest inWorld War II. So, duringtheirstayin Warsaw, his parents took TJto the Warsaw UprisingMuseum,where a photo of nurses helping Polish soldiers grabbed TJ’s attention.
“That to me was the picture of the uprising,” TJ said.
“It was a citizen’s dutyto help one anotherand everyone was involved: children, mothers, fathers, everyday people.”
Theimage remained fresh inhisheadwhen he returned to schoolmonths later.The imagealso made it an easydecision forhimto choosea topicfor National History Day(NHD)in Ms. Barbara Flynn’s 8thgrade "History of Boston" course.
The theme for the 2020 contestwas“Breaking Barriers,”andTJsaid he couldn’t have thought of a better topic than theWarsaw Uprising.
“[My project] was such a perfect opportunity because it was all about breaking barriers,” TJ said.
“Those who participated in the uprisings saw it as this opportunity to break the barriers of Nazi oppression, so, to me, I couldn’t have found a more perfect topic for the theme.”
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society, Massachusetts History Day is the state affiliate of the National History Day (NHD) competitionsponsoredby the University of Maryland. More than 6,000 students in grades 6-12 enter the state competition each year.And, each year,students from the 8th grade“History of Boston”courseat CMsubmit their own projectsto the contest, a requirement thatMs. Flynn, a member of the History and Social Studies Department, added to the curriculum seven years ago.
After selecting a topic, studentsmustconsultprimary sourcesto write a research paper andthencreate a documentary, exhibit, performance, or website based on their research.According to TJ, Ms. Flynn provided him with the research methods needed tofind as much information about the Warsaw Uprising as possible.
“[Ms. Flynn]was the woman who helped me get all the information, tie it together to the theme, and explore presenting the information in a really appealing way,” TJ said.
“Without her intuitive process, it would have been a lot more of a clunkier presentation and much less interesting.”
TJ created his own websitedisplayingthe maps of theuprising, using the source information he had gathered earlier. Using captions to identify the position of insurgents, TJpresentedan innovative, tech-savvyway of broadcasting his love forWorld War IIhistory.
“It was fantastic to see [TJ] get so excited about a topic,” Ms. Flynn said.
“NHD usually has a sample of listed topics. But I love it when students go off on their own. It makes them more invested in the project and trains them to think outside the box.”
When TJ submitted his project in February, hiswebsite garneredplenty ofattention. TheBoston Public Library's Norman Leventhal Map Society nominated the projectas one ofitstop candidates for the best use of maps as a primary sourceprizeawardedby National History Day.
Months later in early August, TJreceivedthemapsprize, joining several otherCM studentstoreceiveawardsfrom NHDin 2020.Thoseadditional prize recipients includedJialinChen, whowon first place in the junior divisionfor his website on the Space Race,andfreshmen Declan Smyth andDaniel Gaffney, whoboth earned the National History Society’s prize for Excellence in a Project on Maritime History.
“I'm really proud of the way my students performed in the contest this past year,” Ms. Flynn said.
“I’m even more excited to see what this year brings.The one positive that has come out ofthis pandemic isthat we’re more on board with technology thaninyears past.That gives us so much more room for creativity.”
Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.