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Homeschool teams win honors in National History Day competition

Gold medal winners (from left) were Hannah Jensen, Keira McKibben, Ava Karis Renegar and Campbell Hodge (seated). Gold medal winners (from left) were Hannah Jensen, Keira McKibben, Ava Karis Renegar and Campbell Hodge (seated).

Several students from a local homeschool program advanced to the national level of competition in the 2023 National History Day Contest in Washington, D.C.

The annual contest held at the University of Maryland invites students to select a topic related to the theme and create a project in one of five categories: documentary, website, exhibit, performance or paper. Students began competition at the regional level and then advanced to state and national levels if awarded first or second place. This year's theme was "Frontiers in History: People, Places and Ideas."

National History Day fosters skills in research, writing and communication as it requires all entries to develop a product, an annotated bibliography and then to defend their work to a panel of judges.

Classical Scholars, a middle and high school home school cooperative based in Mills River, created six projects this year and both senior group performances placed in the top three in the nation.

A gold medal and a $1,000 cash prize was awarded to the entry "30,000 Feet: How a Group of Spunky Stewardesses Overcame Prejudice in the Workplace to Launch a Frontier for Women’s Rights Starting with the Airline Industry." Presented by Campbell Hodge, Hannah Jensen, Keira McKibben and Ava Karis Renegar, their performance focused on the Golden Age of Travel in the 1960s-70s, when stewardesses were often stereotyped and glamorized for the financial gain of the airline industry. Eventually, a group of gutsy female stewardesses rebelled against this sex discrimination utilizing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and forming the first Association of Professional Flight Attendants Union. They pioneered a social frontier focused on better pay, better treatment, and better requirements for all women in the workplace. Their fight for women's rights would change the way people viewed women’s roles at home and in our society for generations to come. The team was coached by Eliza Hardin.

Bronze medal winners (from left) were Andrew Renegar, Eli Thomas, Preston Beiler, Asa Cobb and Ryan Worley.Bronze medal winners (from left) were Andrew Renegar, Eli Thomas, Preston Beiler, Asa Cobb and Ryan Worley.A bronze medal and $250 cash prize was awarded to the entry "The Long and Winding Road: How the Beatles Pioneered New Technologies in Combining Classical and Popular Music Creating a New Musical Mainstream." Presented by Preston Beiler, Asa Cobb, Andrew Renegar, Eli Thomas and Ryan Worley, their performance discussed classical music as a staple of human culture for centuries, and for good reason. The power of music has been widely recognized in the field of social theory, from Plato to Adorno, as having an influence on character, social structure and action. It connects humanity through time and adds emotional value to the human experience. In the 20th century, classical music and popular music collided to create a new musical mainstream. The chief architects of this new style were the Beatles. They reinvigorated the old western tradition and pioneered new technologies with enthusiasm and imagination. They changed the sound, the ambition and the language of popular music. The team was coached by Lisa Dillon.

Several other entries from Classical Scholars competed at the national contest including:

Grace Kushigian with her senior individual documentary titled "Sonic Boom: Crossing the Frontier Into Music Made With Electricity," which examined electronic music history and the pioneers that have emerged with inventions and songs, grasping into the dark and pulling unexplored ideas into the light. Leon Theremin crossed frontiers with his instrument powered by electricity; Bob Moog pioneered the synthesizer, introducing the world to thousands of sonic possibilities. Their decisive stride into the unknown frontiers they faced has led to our present-day musical landscape–one predominantly powered by electricity. Grace was coached by Lisa Dillon.

Another documentary in the senior group category was produced by Jonah Hardin and Kyle Malt. They researched the 1959 American and Soviet National Exhibitions in Moscow and New York City, and their film was called "Face to Face: A Cold War Consumer Diplomacy." In the late 1950s at the height of the Cold War two antagonistic nations attempted to mitigate their differences, not with weapons, but through a consumer frontier that involved an exchange of culture, technology, and education. The people of the United States would cross a new frontier when American citizens could fight the threat of communism as diplomats by sharing with the Soviets the benefits of being a consumer in a free democracy. They were coached by Yvonne Krowka.

Ezra Kushigian and Ryan Malt created a Junior Group Website on the topic of transportation titled "California or Bust: How One 3,000 Mile Frontier Journey Across the United States Resulted in a National Highway System." Originating from paranoia developed during World War I over the fear of war coming to the continent, the United States government decided to inspect and assess the current road system. This would lead to a pioneering journey across the entire United States in 1919 called the Transcontinental Motor Convoy. After participating in this frontier expedition, and inspired by the road system in mainland Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower would eventually design a "Grand Plan" for the National Highway System we have today. They were coached by Eliza Hardin and Katy Sue Malt.

Autumn Beiler and Elianna Yoder, competing in Junior Group Documentary on the topic of forestry, were recognized for their film "Almost Lost to Modern Eyes: The Scientific Frontier of American Forestry." Beginning in the late 1800s, science emerged as the new frontier to establish legal protection for the nation’s declining forest population. By 1873, scientists like Carl Schenck, Gifford Pinchot and others found legislative support in Theodore Roosevelt to move the nation towards natural resource conservation and education. Their coach was Yvonne Krowka.