by Meridith Barney
Canton, Oklahoma history students have traveled to College Park, Maryland, for National History Day competition for the last 27 years. Every year Canton students win various awards such as best of state, Irish history, and women’s history awards, but the first-place award has been an unachievable goal for these decades of students and their advisor, Penny Heath, until this year.
June 9 Canton History Day students made the two day trek to the National History Day competition and came home with their first, first place trophy.
The victory was particularly special for Heath, who has been a History Day teacher for 32 years, because her grandson is a member of the trio who won first in the junior high group exhibit category with a project entitled Labor Reform: Fueled by Fire. The exhibit focused on the labor laws that changed in America as a result of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
The first place award was a culmination of years of hard work.
Heath decided to start doing National History Day in the classroom in 1985 when she had a particularly disinterested group of 8th graders for five hours a day. Competing in History Day allowed Heath’s students the opportunity to do something hands-on and learn practical information like how to read a ruler, add fractions, and work in a group without harming each other.
Five years later, Heath’s students won first place at the state level and qualified for nationals. She knew at that moment there was no reason her class A school couldn’t complete with 6A and higher schools from all over the nation, all it would take was research and hard work. Heath said, “Our kids need to learn that they are not defined or confined by their location. If they are willing to work, they can be the best.”
National History Day is a non-profit education organization that offers year-long academic programs that engage over half a million middle and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest.
“I like the David and Goliath aspect of our small town school taking down the big city schools.” -Penny Heath
NHD Most Popular Sites to See
2. Six Flags
3. United States Naval Academy
4. Washington Monument
5. Lincoln Memorial
For more information on History Day competition in Oklahoma: