Five Tiverton middle schoolers, all first-place winners in the 2023 Rhode Island History Day contest, are headed to Baltimore this week for the program’s national competition. The prestigious …
Five Tiverton middle schoolers, all first-place winners in the 2023 Rhode Island History Day contest, are headed to Baltimore this week for the program’s national competition. The prestigious event, held at the University of Maryland each year, draws about 3,000 student competitors from across the country and overseas.
The local middle school’s National History Day program, which is overseen by sixth-grade social studies teachers Christine Costa and Kristyn Giorgi, has been part of the curriculum for the last four years.
“This was the first year that we had first-place winners go to the nationals in Baltimore,” said Costa.
Tiverton sixth graders who were first-place award recipients in the statewide competition are:
•Abigail Gilfillen and Elena Silvia (Junior Group Exhibit) for "Abigail Adams: Crossing a New Frontier into Independence and Women’s Rights;"
•Ben Brigham, William Correia, and Samuel Messenger (Junior Group Documentary) for "John Adams and the Boston Massacre Trial;"
• Also recognized was sixth grader Zachary Snizek, who received the Secretary of State Award for his project, "Nathanael Greene: New Frontiers in Military Tactics."
Historians and Researchers
Tiverton’s program is rigorous and designed to help students with research and study skills that will serve them well in high school and beyond. It starts in the fall, when each sixth grader is asked to select a history project of their choice, and it continues through the early spring, when statewide winners are announced.
Since the sixth-grade curriculum focuses heavily on the American Revolution, students are asked to choose a National History Day project that is relevant to that era, Costa said. They are also encouraged to adhere to the program’s annual theme, which this year was “Frontiers in History: People, Places, and Ideas.” Scoring of the projects is based on historical quality and clarity of presentation.
Students are expected to rely heavily on primary resource materials – for example, letters, diaries, maps, or newspaper articles, as well as secondary sources such as textbooks and reference books.
“They are historians and they are researchers,” said Costa. “It’s a large undertaking for them but because there is a lot of student choice, I think it motivates them to do work that’s of interest to them.”
Some of the projects are incorporated into a Patriot Night celebration at the school in early March, when both students and faculty wear costumes befitting an American Revolution patriot.
Sixth grader Abigail Gilfillen, who referenced both the challenges and joys she and her teammate Elena Silvia experienced, said there were some setbacks early on that created some worries and doubts. Ultimately, she said, they came to realize just how extraordinary their project was.
“Seeing how others were creating history…just pushed us a little harder. Meeting everyone who competed and all the teachers and judges – they were amazing, they were so kind and gentle.”
Kristyn Giorgi, who co-leads the project with Costa, said the project is an excellent tool in getting students excited about learning history.
“I believe this project offers opportunities for students to develop some of the most important skills that they will need when they leave school… It is a great way of reaching 21st-century students, helping them to be engaged and interested in their studies. I feel like we educators need to latch onto every opportunity like that.”
An online fundraiser has been established to help offset travel expenses for some students. Donations can be made here.