OGDEN — Ethan Nunes and Natasha Pagel-Aprill, sixth-graders at Saint Joseph Elementary School, participated in the 2012 Utah State History Fair, Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest held at Thanksgiving Point April 18.
Nunes and Pagel-Aprill were the first students from St. Joseph Elementary to compete at the state level. They began at the school level earlier this year and were among the top students to participate in the regional competition. There, they won top honors and were invited to attend the state history fair.
The Utah State University-sponsored event was open to students in fourth through 12th grade from schools throughout the state and was themed "Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History."
When Nunes learned of the theme he knew he wanted to incorporate space into his project and began researching the beginnings of the space race. His project was "The Space Race: Reaction to the Cold War Politics."
"I originally thought the contributions in space were done because the United States wanted to, but I learned the space race happened as a result of the Cold War and nuclear weapons," Nunes said. "The space race revolutionized our world and was started out of fear between the United States and Russia. Each country feared being taken over by the other through the use of nuclear weapons. I chose this project because I have always loved studying space and I would like to be the first man to walk on Mars."
Pagel-Aprill’s project, "The Printing Press: How a technological revolution changed the world," taught her that the contributions the printing press made to the world were enormous, she said. "Printing increased literacy among the masses," Pagel-Aprill said adding that history is her favorite subject. "The printing press brought on the renaissance, the ability for Martin Luther to start a new religion, the financial revolution with printed money and the scientific revolution as information was made available."
Heidi Chudy, a parent volunteer, teaches history to St. Joseph Elementary School students once a week through exploratory classes.
"This year we had about 10 students participate in the regional history fair," said Chudy. "This is our third year participating and it is a good way to expose the kids to more history. It broadens their research skills and they learn how to interpret history. It also improves their speaking skills as they prepare to talk to the judges; each year our projects get better."
"The over 300 students all did very well; it takes a lot of hard work to get to the state level," said Nicholas Demas, Utah History Fair director. "It’s a lot of hard work for both the teachers and students, and it’s wonderful to see the schools improve every year. Students’ competing at the state and then national level, have to put together projects that are more than just visually stunning. They have to encapsulate rigorous research and provide a solid argument based on their primary and secondary resources. They also have to justify why their topics are important. The history fair is more about explaining why something happened and why it’s important rather than just telling what happened."
Since the Utah History Fair began through the Utah Humanities Council in 1980, it has helped tens of thousands of Utah students learn, experience and enjoy history, said Demas. "It encourages students to explore an area of history that reflects their curiosity or heritage; students often research and present topics that reflect their personality."