GREEN BROOK, NJ – Five eighth graders will make history next month as the first group of Green Brook Middle School students to compete in the National History Day (NHD) regional competition.
NHD frames students’ research within a historical theme that, according to www.nhd.org, is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is ‘Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.’
“The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding,” states the site. “The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.”
NHD is open to grades 6-12 with students competing in either middle school or high school categories. Three regional competitions, each with hundreds of submissions, taking place across the state with Green Brook’s own Jason Allen, Annabell Pu, Katie Tan, Jack White and Vivian Zhang set to compete against fellow middle schoolers from Mercer, Hunterdon, Camden, Warren, Gloucester, and Somerset counties in the March 5 regional competition at Princeton University.
Brian Mojta, who teaches seventh grade social studies at Green Brook Middle School, said the ‘range of the competition is enormous’ with students able to select from various options, including but not limited to, making museum quality models and displays; creating historical performance art; writing essays, designing websites; and developing historical documentaries.
Green Brook Middle Schoolers Jason, Annabell, Katie, Jack and Vivian volunteered to take part in the competition and, since October, worked alongside Mojta for one class period twice a week to complete a scholarly 10-minute documentary on the ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction and an annotated bibliography to support their conclusions.. “From the students' research I have learned that human activity and correlated environment changes have lead to an extinction crisis for many species around the world,” said Mojta, adding, “The students chose the topic completely on their own.”
In creating the documentary, which is appropriately entitled ‘The Sixth Mass Extinction,’ the students conducted in-depth historical research and interviewed Rutgers University professors Alan Robock, Ph.D., a climatologist, and Paul Israel, Ph.D., an expert in American innovation and industrialization. They also spent numerous hours at the Alexander Library at Rutgers University.
“These students volunteered to make a ‘group documentary’ for the NHD competition. They are some of the most exceptional students in the eighth grade at Green Brook Middle School,” said Mojta, who taught all five of the students last year.
Academic competitions such as NHD, added Mojta, provide students an avenue to express themselves creatively in a meaningful way about a topic they care about it. “It deepens the students’ research and analytic skills,” he said. “The students get to see academics as a focus in this sort of competition, rather than athletics which we see in society more often.”
In addition to the March 5 competition, regional competitions will also take place Feb. 27 at Monmouth University (for students in Monmouth, Middlesex, Burlington, Union and Hudson counties) and March 12 at Seton Hall University (for students from Passaic, Essex, Morris, Bergen and Sussex counties). The most deserving projects from all three competitions move forward to the state final on May 7 at William Paterson University with the state winners going on to the National Competition in College Park, MD in June.
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