Students Advance From NHD Districts to States

Trey Yamamoto, Reporter

    On Sat. Feb. 23, MHS worked alongside the Hawai’i Council For The Humanitites (HCH) to host the annual Central District History Day. Students from MHS, Waialua High and Intermediate School, Radford High School, Moanalua High School, Aliamanu Middle School, ‘Aiea Intermediate, Mililani Waena Elementary and Mililani ‘Ike Elementary, gathered at the event to display their projects to a group of judges. Judges then decided on which projects were qualified to advance to the state level. Parents of competitors alongside the general public, were also allowed on campus to show their support, and browse through the displays and essays during the set viewing time as well as during and after the closing remarks. With only three winners per each of the five categories; documentary, display, website, paper and performance, and a plethora of unique projects to choose from, qualifying to move on was extremely competitive.

   “They always say NHD is not a day, it’s an experience. And the reason why I’ve been doing NHD since 1996, is because I found that it prepares my students for college. It provides students the skills they need to do historical inquiries, it provides them skills to write bibliographies, to research, to make judgements on projects, it’s not about memorizing history, it’s about evaluating history, looking at primary sources and drawing conclusions, and if my students could do that through NHD, they could do it with any subject and they could do it in things in life, or determining what job they want, so it’s really about life skills,” said Social Studies teacher Amy Boehning.

    For the last two months, Boehning has been working as a mentor for students, helping them to create plans and guiding them through a step by step process. Keeping in contact with her students by text or other social applications like Facetime, Boehning has been able to provide real-time feedback to assist students in resolving their problems. “It’s really, where my students usually find stress, is they get stuck. They feel like, ‘I don’t know what to do,’and so that’s pretty much what I do. Is I say, here’s the next step you need to take to get this finished. And I help guide them through that process and it’s much easier. If a teacher has a well organized plan of chunking the project through, it’s not that hard. My fourth and fifth graders do it absolutely fine, and my students in my classes do it absolutely fine, but if you just tell a student, do this project, and there’s not a plan, they get stuck, and it gets very stressful,” said Boehning.   

    Boehning has also been mentoring students like Mia Murasaki and Willow Otaka, who are working on NHD outside of their regular social studies classes. After making it all the way up to nationals during last year’s NHD competition, and making it into the state competition this year with their documentary, “Triumph and Tragedy of Gojira; The Monster that Destroyed and Saved Japan,” Otaka and Murasaki have had experience working under the stress and pressure of the competition. “Well, as freshmen last year, we were incredibly stressed because of the expectations put on us. Our teachers believed that we could make it to nationals, and we, competing against several upperclassmen, were scared. But this motivated us to keep going, and we made it to nationals somehow. So I feel that being stressed and pushing yourself is an essential component of being successful,” said Otaka. Murasaki added, “ Everyone wants to do well and sometimes that can make you anxious when it gets closer to the next round of competition. However, a little friendly competition isn’t bad. I think it keeps us on our toes and forces us to find more resources to add to our project.”

    While Murasaki and Otaka have been past the district level before, groups like that of Sophomores Elizabeth Johnson and Aliyah Tavares are experiencing making it to states for the first time. Johnson and Tavares’s project was a display board with the topic, “Triumph of Emily Hobhouse and the Tragedy of the Second Boer War.” Just like Murasaki and Otaka, Johnson and Tavares also had to work under the constant stress and pressure that came with competing at the district level. “We faced many difficulties from going over the maximum word count and struggling to cut our paragraphs down, to not having enough primary sources. We were constantly struggling to find the right balance in our project. We pulled many all-nighters trying to put our overall project together. Also it was very hard to find accurate information since our topic was so unique,” said Tavares. Johnson added, “We aren’t super competitive, but we did work harder as the stress hit us. A lot of our friends were in districts as well, and we hoped they would move on just as they encouraged us. We got more stressed in the final week before the project was due, like we said, we pulled some all-nighters. During that time, we weren’t thinking of beating anyone, we were doing it for ourselves and we didn’t want all the hard work to go to waste.”

    While serving as a mentor for students competing in NHD, Boehning realized that it was how her students organized their information and planned their course of action, that made the biggest impact on how efficiently a project could be completed. “You don’t build a house in one day, well you can, but you put the foundation down, then you put the walls up, you put the roof on, then you come in and you put in the plumbing and electrical, that’s how projects, all projects should be done. You don’t sit down in one night and do a project, you do it step by step and so, if done right, students find, especially when I work with my elementary kids, because I take them step by step, so by the time that they come up to high school, they can do these projects because they know how to do each part, so when done right, it’s not stressful,” said Boehning.

    Other participants that qualified for states are, in the documentary category: Kaylee Nakayama, Lauren Bongco, Shantel Gongob, Shealey Cezar and Shaiann Wong. In the exhibit category winners were: Reagan Gayle Ree, Kaylee Jones and Melissa Minato, and from the research paper category, Louie Yang, and Henry Poarch. There were also winners from the  performance category: Hi’ilani Helenihi, Danielle Nadamoto, Armann Needles, Brianna Chan, Kailee Chatters and Emily Huff. And in the website category, winners were: Breanne Acoba, Annabelle Ink, Anthony Bragg and Hayley LaBonte.


On April. 13, the NHD state competitions will be held at Windward Community College to see which groups and individual projects will be qualifying for the national level.