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Rights and responsibilities in history as seen by RHMS

The Navigator team of eighth grade students at RHMS conducted interviews of experts in order to gain background information for their National History Day projects. On December 11, forty visitors came to RHMS to be interviewed and filmed on a wide variety of topics.

Article contributed by RHMS eighth grade students Karen Yi and Nashira Black; photo courtesy of RHMS eighth grade student Lea McCaffrey

The eighth grade teams at Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS) are participating in National History Day (NHD) this year against thousands of students across the nation. NHD is a competition with a yearly theme in which students from all over the country research a topic that they are interested in, construct a claim about it, and develop a project based on their claim.

The 2014 theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History, and participants are required to include why their topic relates to rights and responsibilities in their claim. One group wrote as their claim, “Andrew Jackson did not have the right to force the Native Americans out of their land,” which is a reference to the Trail of Tears. The students are eagerly working on their projects, and hoping to have a winner. “This project gives students the ability to research, support, and defend an opinion of history with evidence.  It’s relevant and yet engaging,” said eighth grade social studies teacher Holly Spurlin.

The project allows students to have choice in what they decide to research. Student Christina Iverson commented, “I like that you are more interested in your topic, because you’re not just getting an assignment;” while student Hayden Brauch likes that he can “do what I want to do,” namely more hands-on activities such as “video and film editing.” Students may produce a performance, exhibit, documentary, essay, or website as their final project.

The Navigator team students were also required to interview an expert on their topic as part of their project. This gave the students the chance to master the subject themselves, while also receiving extra help. People ranging from Rebecca Hunt, a professor from the University of Colorado, to Dave Fraser from Fox 31 news were invited to RHMS on December 11, to take part in an hour-and-a-half-long discussion and interview.

Completed projects will be entered into a local competition which takes place in the spring, with the state competition to follow. State finalists enter the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in June. Winners receive medals and prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000. RHMS student Abby Antinoro said she “likes that it’s a competition; it gives you motivation to do well on the project.”

To learn more about NHD at RHMS, visit To learn more about RHMS, visit



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