NHD competition exhibits sophomores’ research talent


Photo by Alex Gaines '25.

NHD exhibits created by U.S. History Honors students filled an entire room at Sacred Heart University.

When the 10th grade U.S. History Honors students opened the doors of the Mahogany Room at Sacred Heart University on March 18, they were faced with anesthesia masks, recreations of Atari video game machines and – of course – Elmo. These features came from exhibits in the Fairfield Regional Contest of National History Day, and the sophomores had been preparing for it all school year.

Students visited Sacred Heart University from 8 a.m – 3 p.m. to participate and compete in Connecticut History Day and the overall National History Day (NHD) contest. Staples and Bedford students had winners in several categories, including Group Documentary and Individual Performance. The diverse variety of historical topics were all required to fall under one theme: Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas

The theme, which changes each year, is defined by the official National History Day website in two different ways: “a wilderness at the edge of a settled area [or] uncharted territory,” or generally “an undeveloped field of study.” 

“[The theme is] a good representation for change,” social studies teacher Kelly Zrenda said. “It’s those pivotal moments that life was one way before and a different way after, and I think it also allows students to see that they can also be a change.”

I really enjoyed the project and how it makes me think deeply about the past, and how it can impact the future.

— Sebi Cruz ’25.

After conducting extensive amounts of research, students could submit their final projects in many different formats, including exhibits, documentaries, websites, papers and performances. NHD is taught to the students along with the normal U.S. history curriculum in class.

“It allows [students] to really explore history at their own pace and at their own interest level,” social studies teacher Nell-Ann Lynch said. “It allows them to follow a passion, something they’ve always wanted to learn a little bit more about.”

At the competition, students were interviewed alongside their project by judges. They were asked questions about both the physical project and its connection to the theme for 10 minutes. Students from Bedford also had the ability to compete in NHD, but in the junior division which was judged separately from the high schoolers in the senior division.

“Sophomore year is a good time to do it for the senior division because it ties in really well with American history,” Zrenda said. “As honors students we want to foster that inquiry skill and process.”

Exhibits included those about anesthesia, Muhammad Ali and fast food. (Photo by Alex Gaines ’25.)

Staples competed against several other schools in the Fairfield County area, including Greenwich and Trumbull. The students who won in the county are to move onto the State competition and then Nationals.

“It’s interesting to see what other schools do,” Zrenda said. “It’s nice that you can talk to other students from other areas and learn about their projects.”

Throughout the school year leading up to the competition, students were provided with lots of resources and examples of past successful and winning projects. Some classes were visited by the Fairfield NHD Regional Coordinator, Tony Andrade.

“My favorite part of preparing has been getting to meet with people involved with this organization,” Kate Rodriguez ’25 said. “Because a lot of them were very friendly and very helpful and they gave a lot of great feedback.”

In order to submit their project, students had to also submit an annotated bibliography with many varied sources, one of which had to be an interview with someone who could give info on their topic, and a process paper detailing the process of creating the final product.

“I really enjoyed the project and how it makes me think deeply about the past,” Sebi Cruz ’25 said. “And how it can impact the future.”