Two Catholic students advance to National History Day competition
Friday, May. 08, 2015
MURRAY —Tatiana Chudy and Natasha Pagel-Aprill are among 65 students from Utah who qualified for the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in Washington, D.C. in June. They were selected from among 375 students who competed in Utah State History Day held at Murray High School April 18.
More than 5,600 students competed in nine categories in two age divisions on the local and regional levels.
Pagel-Aprill placed first in senior individual documentary with her project, “Through Science to Justice: Magnus Hirschfeld and Germany’s LGBT Rights Movement.”
The Weber State University Newman Center parishioner began competing in History Day in the fifth grade at Saint Joseph Elementary School and is now a freshman at West High School.
Chudy, a sophomore at Saint Joseph Catholic High School, who has been competing in the fair for six years, placed second in senior exhibit with her project, “The Iron Grandma: Golda Meir and the Shaping of Israel.”
This year’s theme was “Leadership and Legacy in History.” The theme encouraged the kids to think about what leadership means and how a person or group of people exercised leadership, what made them affective and the legacy they left, said Wendy Rex-Atzet, Ph.D, Utah State coordinator.
Pagel-Aprill chose her topic because she was interested in 1920s German history. “We were visiting family in Germany last summer and I wanted to film on location and do research while I was there,” she said. “Hirschfeld founded the first organization advocating for gay rights in 1897 and I found it fascinating that this movement actually began in the mid-19th century and flourished in the liberal atmosphere of Weimar-era Germany and was crushed after the Nazis came to power.”
Chudy chose to do her project on Golda Meir because she wanted to depict a strong, female leader that was less well-known, she said.
“Meir interested me, as did Jewish history,” she said. “It was interesting how people tried to involve her in the feminist movement of the 1970s even though she was never really a part of it; Meir felt a strong ambivalence toward feminism even though she was the prime minister of Israel and an inspiration to women both inside and outside of her country.”
Utah History Day is open to all students in fourth through twelfth grade attending public, private, parochial, charter, online and home schools.
Utah History Day is geared toward enriching the way students learn about and engage with history, said Rex-Atzet. “Traditional history can be kind of dull and focused on memorizing names and dates that don’t seem relevant to a lot of kids’ lives. Through History Day, the kids learn academic skills they can use in other classes, in college or careers such as research, interview skills, finding sources, analyzing data and historical evidence; they are able to draw their own conclusions about their topics.”
The competition categories are: exhibit, documentary, research paper, performance and website. Students can compete as individuals or in a group of up to five.
“Natasha created a documentary film that turned out to be something that could be seen on the History channel or on PBS using historic footage and photos; she edited it, wrote the script and created a musical sound track,” said Rex-Atzet. “It ended up being much broader than just learning about a topic in history.”
Over the years, Chudy has learned “a lot of artistic skills and to have patience using archives,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of painting to create the boards for my exhibits; this year I used wallpaper. I have also increased my writing skills, which has helped in my English classes. When I first started I was terrified of public speaking and now I’m getting better at it.”
“History Day provides a unique opportunity for me to research something in depth, which I really enjoy,” said Pagel-Aprill. “I find it very stimulating.”
Heidi Chudy is the St. Joseph Schools volunteer for the local and regional History Day as well as Rex-Atzet’s assistant.
While some schools make History Day mandatory, it is voluntary for St. Joseph Schools, which means Natasha and Tatiana have to work on their projects on their own, outside of school.
“Having both Natasha and Tatiana make it to National History Day is amazing; it tips the hat to the Saint Joseph history teachers,” Chudy said.
Utah History Day is operated by the Utah Division of State History. No entry fees are charged for the regional or state competitions.