“Access_Denied: Breaching Required” reads the text on sophomores Allison Zhang, Joe Mo and Alex Rogawski’s website.
Below it: “Enter Site Upon Hacking Completion.”
Why did these sophomores create a website you had to hack into? It was for the National History Day competition (NHD).
Five high schoolers – including Zhang, Mo, Rogawski and freshmen Heloise Schep and Jackson Margolis – competed in the NHD county competition on March 4 at Inderkum High School.
And all five earned a placing of Champion, qualifying them for a spot in the state competition beginning on Saturday, May 6, at William Jessup University in Rocklin.
NHD is a competition in which students from across the nation explain important historical events.
The contest requires participants to create a project in the form of a video, exhibit, website, performance or paper that demonstrates a theme (This year’s was “Take a Stand!”).
Students can work individually or in groups. Over 500,000 middle and high schoolers are expected to compete this year, but this is the first time SCDS high schoolers have participated.
Two years ago, Chris Kuipers, middle-school history teacher and project facilitator, introduced the competition to the eighth grade.
“I was looking for a way to innovate my eighth-grade curriculum,” Kuipers said.
“As I considered a variety of options, I kept coming back to the NHD program. I liked that it was a pre-existing program with its own rules, (so) I wouldn’t have to create something from scratch.
“I also loved that NHD offered a competitive aspect. I was excited to offer my students an opportunity to conduct research and showcase it to (an) authentic audience beyond the school.”
Kuipers’s project was popular among his students, many of whom wanted to compete again in 2016. However, Kuipers said he didn’t have the time to include high schoolers last year.
This year, with both ninth and tenth graders wanting to participate, Kuipers agreed to support any high-school student who wanted to enter.
And Zhang was one of these.
“In eighth grade, I did a documentary on Julia Child, and I made it to the state competition,” Zhang said. “The whole experience was really fun, and I learned a lot, not only about my topic, but also about researching and presenting information.”
Zhang teamed up with Mo and Rogawski to create a website about Edward Snowden, a former U.S. government employee who leaked information to the press about the National Security Administration’s surveillance programs.
“When we started the project, the ‘Snowden’ movie had just been released,” Zhang said. “There are mixed opinions on him, but we tried to create a balanced and historical website with information from both sides.”
Mo found the project appealing for a different reason. Having created a website in last NHD competition, he was excited by the prospect of making another.
“I thought a website on Snowden would be fitting and fun to design,” Mo said.
So Mo worked on the design of the website while Rogawski and Zhang focused on the content.
Schep, who was born in the Netherlands, wrote a paper about Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch suffragette and pacifist.
“I am very interested in finding out more about my country’s history,” Schep said.
“I am passionate about pacifism and interested in women’s suffrage, and I love writing and journalism.
“Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch woman who used the press to advocate woman suffrage and pacifism, combined all these interests, so she was a perfect choice for me.”
Unlike most competitors in NHD, Margolis competed in the performance category.
Performances are up to 10 minutes long and reenact important events in history or moments from historical figures’ lives.
Last year, Margolis, who studies ballet, told the story of choreographer George Balanchine and then did a dance.
This year Margolis is telling the story of Gandhi.
“I’m going to (play) a news reporter called Webb Miller and (the) Reverend Charlie Andrews,” Margolis said.
“They’re telling the story of Gandhi and how he took a stand for a nation.”
Although Kuipers officially supervises the project, he said that he hasn’t done much to help the high-school students create their projects.
“I’ve looked over drafts of all the projects and offered some general advice, but there was no hand-holding throughout the process,” Kuipers said.
“All the work done by Héloïse, Allison, Joe, Alex and Jackson has been driven by themselves. It’s very impressive.”
With the exception of performances, all projects were completed and submitted to the Sacramento History Day judges by Feb. 15 for early review.
And on March 4 all of that hard work paid off.
However, Zhang said that the work never stops because they still have a lot of improvements and changes to make before the state competition.
—By Garrett Shonkwiler and Jack Christian