The Calvert County History Fair competition took place at Calvert High School on March 10. Known as National History Day, this competition is open to middle and high school students to create projects about an important event in history, pertaining to the annual theme.
Projects can be done individually or as a group and can be presented in one of five categories: historical paper, exhibit, documentary, website or performance. Students’ projects can advance to the school level and county level and, if they pass that, even on to the state and national competitions.
Amie Dryer, a history teacher at Calvert High School, has been doing this with her students for nine years, and this is her sixth year as Calvert’s History Fair coordinator.
“Students begin the process of researching the theme and selecting possible topics in October and finish in February, so this is a five-month process for them beginning to end,” Dryer said. “I want them to become excellent researchers, and I want them to have passion for their topics, so students can choose whatever they want, as long as it relates to the annual theme.”
This year’s theme is “Conflict and Compromise.” Each school sends a few students from each category to the county level. Then, four projects from each category advance to the state level, two from junior division (middle school) and two from senior division (high school).
All of Calvert County’s middle and high schools are involved in the National History Day competition, including some private schools. This year Cardinal Hickey Academy advanced a group performance to the state competition.
Every year, projects are judged the morning of the competition and an awards ceremony takes place in the afternoon. Special guests at this year’s awards ceremony included Phoebe Stein, director of Maryland Humanities Council; Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert); Bill Phalen, Calvert County Board of Education member; Cecilia Lewis, Calvert County supervisor of social studies; Susan Johnson, director of secondary school improvement; and Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s).
“Generally, students’ work is held to a high standard,” Johnson said. “I think when students can demonstrate their knowledge in different modes, it allows the judges to see and truly evaluate their knowledge and understanding of their topic.”
Even if students do not advance to the state competition, there are many opportunities for awards. Students can win special awards for a specific achievement with their project. In addition to two state advancers, there is an honorable mention winner who acts as an alternate to the state competition, and there are also two grand prizes given out as well.
Calvert High School senior Jack Dodsworth advanced to the state level and won a grand prize of $250 for his paper detailing the 17th-century conflict between Maryland and Virginia over Kent Island and how this conflict resulted in the passage of the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649.
“I have always felt that local history is generally glossed over in the public school system,” Dodsworth said. “I decided that I wanted to explore the lesser-known stories from Maryland’s long and surprisingly rich history.”
This is Dodsworth’s second year participating in the history fair and both times he has advanced to the state competition. This experience has taught him a lot about the benefits of enjoying one’s work and he will take what he has learned as he goes on to study history and anthropology.
“Completing a history fair project can benefit students in all their classes and throughout life,” Dryer said. “They learn how to receive constructive criticism and feedback, which will happen all throughout life, no matter what job you get.”
“This event is unique because it allows our students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic around the theme in a variety of ways,” Johnson said. “I appreciate the thoughtful work of the students who demonstrated a great deal of knowledge and skill in their projects this year.”
The Maryland History Day Competition will be held April 28 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The writer is part of the Young Journalists Program in partnership with The Calvert Recorder and Calvert County Public Schools. The article was originally published in the Calvert Recorder on April 6, 2018