I’ve covered the accomplishments of Westport’s National History Day competitors before.
I’ve used the headline “Do Know Much About History” too, so I can’t do that again.
However, earlier this month 5 Bedford Middle School students and 1 from Staples proved Sam Cooke wrong. They do know a lot about history.
The 8th graders — already state champions — placed 5th in the national event in College Park, Maryland. Freshman Ishan Prasad — a Bedford National History Day alum — placed 2nd in the High School Individual Paper category, for his work: “Shah Bano and India’s Post-Colonial Predicament: Gender vs. Religion.”
The Westport program is only 5 years old. But what a history it has!
When Caroline Davis moved here from New Jersey, she brought a dozen years’ experience as a middle school National History Day Club faculty adviser. She asked if she could start one here.
Principal Adam Rosen welcomed the idea. A year later, Bedford qualified for the national competition. They repeated in 2017, ’18 and ’19 — all 3 times as state champs. Last year, they finished 4th in the country.
Davis calls her students “incredibly motivated. They want to explore outside of Goggle and readily available sources.”
She’s not kidding. Last year — delving into the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court interracial marriage case — one group tracked down and interviewed the Lovings’ attorney.
Another group made a website about the Oklahoma City bombing. They found — and interviewed — Chris Fields, the firefighter in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from that 1995 day.
(I know — to many “06880” readers, that’s a “current event.” But it happened a couple of decades before the current BMS kids were born. So history it is.)
The club meets twice a week. Students bring their lunch to Davis’ classroom, eating and working together. She helps them stay on course. But finding sources, organizing information, laying it out, offering peer reviews — that’s all on the students.
The national competition in Washington, DC was a fantastic educational and fun experience. In addition to teams from all over the US, the BMS students (and Ishan) met others from South Korea, China and Guam.
They also met Senator Richard Blumenthal, who spoke with them about the importance of history.
This year’s theme was “Triumph and Tragedy.” The BMS team — Rhea Choudhury, Sharmila Green, Emma Losonczy, Malika Subramanian and Lucia Wang — researched and presented the career of Lise Meitner.
Never heard of her? Neither had I.
She’s a Jewish Austrian physicist who helped discover nuclear fission in the late 1930s. She never received credit, though — and was even excluded from receiving the Nobel Prize.
Fortunately, the Bedford students (and Ishan) got their prize. Congrats to them, to Caroline Davis and Westport 6-12 social studies supervisor Lauren Francese.
Take that, Sam Cooke!