Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Pivotal moments

Staff Writer | March 13, 2024 1:30 AM

ROYAL CITY — There’s an old adage that says “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost,” meaning that big changes in history often hinge on single events. Royal School District students identified some of those pivotal moments at the Central Washington Regional History Day competition Saturday at Davis High School in Yakima.

Ninety-seven students from the Royal School District competed, and 33 of them placed in the top finals, Theresa Piper, who teaches seventh-grade science at RMS, wroite in an email to the Columbia Basin Herald. Students created in-depth reports including displays and often costumes to illustrate the important moments that shaped history, including well-known events like the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the sinking of the Titanic, but also less-famous events like the 1974 Boldt decision that extended Native tribal sovereignty and the 1905 publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” which triggered massive reforms in food safety.

“I put together a list of topics to give students an idea,” said seventh-grade social studies teacher Emily Ovenell, who coordinated Royal’s entries. “But students absolutely can go outside that list. The Polish Solidarity movement (which began the decline of the Soviet Union) was not on my list. That one was out there, but (it got) first place, so it was a very good topic.”

 Students began researching their topics back in November, Piper wrote. They used primary and secondary sources to form a thesis statement explaining the significance of a particular event.

“Students can do a website, performance (or) exhibit,” said Ovenell. “And then it depends on the category, but they present their research project and then judges ask them questions about their projects. So they have to do a formal interview to support their research.”

Students were expected to come up with their own props and costumes, and Ovenell credited eighth-grade English teacher Marnie Bergeson with helping students come up with them. 

Judges came from around Washington to judge the exhibits, Ovenell said, and academic rigor was a must.

“The biggest (criterion) is probably their connection to the theme,” she said. “Arguing how their topic is a turning point. Their thesis statements: (they should be) strong, clear, concise and relating to that theme connection. The use of primary sources in their research, significance to history (and) their connection to today; they're expected to have a lasting legacy section. Wide research: we want a bibliography that includes primary and — secondary books, videos, websites, lots of different sources.”

The 33 students who placed – in the top finals will move on to the state competition, held April 27 at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, Piper wrote. Competitors who place in the top two at state will go on to the national competition at the University of Maryland in June, Ovenell said.

Among the honors Royal Middle School brought home was one for Ovenell herself: she was named Washington State History Day Teacher of the Year, Principal Jerrod Copenhaver said.

“For junior division,” Ovenell clarified.

Being nominated at the state level makes her eligible for the prestigious Patricia Behring Award, which will be given at the national competition, Ovenell said.

The Royal School District is accepting donations for students in the History Day program, Piper wrote to help defray the cost of props and exhibits, as well as traveling expenses as students level up in competition. Anyone interested in helping out is invited to contact Copenhaver at or call the school at 509-346-2268.

Regionals Royal School District Placements

Junior division (grades 6-8)

Individual Performance

2nd place — Catalina Antunez — 19th Amendment

Group Performance 

4th place: Troy McCullough and Brock Morgan — The Wright Brothers

3rd place: Leah Christensen, Hali Christensen, Kylee Orth — Clara Barton

1st place: Sarah Bergeson and Grace Soliz — The Sinking of The Titanic

Individual Exhibit

1st place: Jose Villanueva — Lewis Hine

2nd place: Genevieve Monge — Jacques Cousteau

3rd place: Katie Piercy — Vincent Chin

4th place: Zoe Beltran — Mill Girls

Group Exhibit 

1st place: Aurora Santillan Guerrero and Justine Fitzhugh — The Jungle

2nd place: Lauren Wardenaar and Lizzie Jenks — Matchgirls' Strike

3rd place: Luke Perkins, Dane Larsen, Mason Meseberg — Love Canal 

4th place: Kellen Lawrence and Easton Sutor — Vietnam War Broadcasting

5th place: Brian Baeza and Deyvin Tolentino — Steel

Individual Website

1st place: Bryson Piper — Silent Spring

2nd place: Giselle Perez — The Boldt Decision

Senior Division (grades 9-12) 

Individual Exhibit 

1st place: Rebecca Carlson — The Lenin Shipyard Strike

2nd place — Logan Piper — The Boldt Decision

3rd place: — Alex Guillermo — Steel

Group — Exhibit

1st place: Alondra Farias and Rosario Bujanda- Barbara Johns Walkout

2nd place: Moises Castro Tellez, David Baeza, Alfredo Huerta — Plastic

    Jose Villanueva took first place for his research into the early-20th-century photography of Lewis Hine, which led to radical reform in child labor laws.
    Katie Piercy’s exhibit highlighted Vincent Chin, whose 1982 murder – and the lenient punishment given his killers – sparked civil rights advances for Asian Americans and stronger hate crime legislation.