KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy 8th graders competed against students across the state for National History Day Colorado in the culmination of their project-based social studies learning curriculum. KIPPsters earned first and second place in the group exhibit categories, second place in the individual exhibit category, and third place in the website category for the junior division.
National History Day is a national organization of social studies and literacy programs for elementary, middle, and high school levels that lead to junior and senior divisions of project competitions. Students who compete and place at regional competitions move on to a state competition, then from the state to the national competition at the University of Maryland.
Mr. Jentz has taught National History Day curriculum at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy for four years. All 8th graders complete a project based on the curriculum and present it at the school level for a grade. Students decide whether they enter the regional competition based on a set of criteria he sets.
For KIPPster Yatziry, competing in National History Day is a thrill in her journey to and through college.
“I really like competing against other people in schools,” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m going to be someone in high school or in college, someone who is prepared.”
Yatziry’s project offered a way to connect with her family’s history.
“My project was about The Bracero Program,” she said. “People from Mexico came to the U.S. during World War II to do agriculture and they were discriminated against so they protested.It’s personal for me because my grandpa was a Bracero.”
This year’s theme was conflict and compromise. KIPPsters covered topics and groups including the Bracero Program, the Harlem Hellfighters and World War I, Women’s Rights Activists, and the Crimean War.
Kevin, Brian, and Alberto completed a group project about the Harlem Hellfighters and won first place. For them, their expression of history underscores contemporary social issues that they witness today.
“Nowadays there’s the Black Lives Matter movement against discrimination. It’s kind of the same thing because the Harlem Hellfighters were doing these amazing things during World War I but never got recognized by the United States, and things like that are still going on today,” Kevin said.
“It was really interesting to us that they were discriminated against even though they were giving up their freedom to help the country,” Brian said.
Mr. Jentz is proud to see the students demonstrating grit and zest through their projects.
“The kids worked really hard on these projects,” he said. “I had students who didn’t even compete in the regional competition but who still came in on parent-teacher conference day just to finish their projects. They encouraged their teammates and their classmates. The whole process was transformational because they started to become leaders of their own learning.”
For one KIPPster, persistence paid off after his project last year did not advance.
“It was all worth it because last year I went to the regional competition but I lost. This year I won and I’m going to state,” said Duilio, who submitted a project about the Crimean War.
National History Day in Colorado reaches nearly 23,000 students each year. The regional winners will present at the state competition on May 5th at the University of Colorado Denver on the Auraria Campus.