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History day returns to Bigfork after six-year hiatus

by EVELYN VIGIL, For the Eagle
| June 5, 2024 12:00 AM

Local judges gathered in the Bigfork High School library to observe the National History Day projects created by the junior class on Wednesday, May 22. Promoted by history and English teachers Cynthia Wilondek and Annmari Sikon, respectively, this assignment was designed to encourage students to find a fun way of interacting with history.

NHD is a competition throughout the United States. This year’s theme is “Turning Points In History” and the students were directed to center their exhibits, documentaries, websites, or papers around it.

NHD provides all kinds of opportunities for the students who participate in it.

“National History Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and is considered one of the most prestigious programs for secondary students in the country. Each state sends representatives to Washington D.C. to compete in June for top honors in the country. The top four prizes earn full ride scholarships to such prestigious institutions as the University of Maryland and Stanford University,” explained Wilondek.

It has been a while since the NHD was done at Bigfork High School, but Wilondek highlights her and Sikon’s love for the program.

“The reason we are doing this after a six year absence is simple: Ms. Sikon and I both have a shared passion for this program,” Wilondek said.

The students had the option of presenting their work in a website, documentary, or poster form. With topics covering everything from racism, misrepresentation and feminism, to war, food and safety regulations, the projects were simultaneously vast and specific.

Each exhibit highlighted a thesis statement describing the impact of the students’ chosen topic. This is complemented by photos, descriptions and small snippets of why their chosen subject was a major turning point along with their sources.

“The main purpose of this program is to promote historical scholarship in secondary students throughout the US and its territories. All the things we value in American society - critical thinking skills, analytical research, originality and creativity - are on full display with this program,” Wilondek concluded.

Individual winners were Emily Rust’s website, “Turning Points in History: The Discovery of the Polio Vaccine;” Dylynne Cosand’s exhibit, “The Revolution of West Side Story in American Culture,” Payton Kallenberger’s documentary, “A Lethal Launch: The Challenger Disaster that Transformed American Space Travel;” and Theo Ohlsson’s historical paper, “Trinity: The first ever atomic bomb.”

Group project winners were Sean Cotman and Ty Anderson’s website, “Turning Point in Industrialization: WWII and Its Advancements;” Stella Kehoe, Ivy Everson and Abigail Pilskalns’ exhibit, “The Triangle Fire: Spurred Changes in Workplace Safety and Regulations Laws;” and Anna Hocevar and Gabrielle Thorsen’s documentary, “Turning Points in History: Rosie the Riveter and Women’s Inspiration.”

Audience favorite was Hazel Lowell, Maci Pickens and Arianna Syndor’s “Introduction of GMOs in Agricultural Production.” Kallenberger also won best in show.