Each year, more than half a million middle and high school students participate in National History Day. Students complete individual or group projects in one of the contest categories: paper, exhibit, website, documentary, and performance, built around each year’s theme. For 2020, the theme was “Breaking Barriers.” One of the biggest barriers students faced was losing opportunities to compete in person. However, volunteers and coordinators translated the popular competition to a virtual format at local, state and national levels.
Isabella Hardy of Crossnore participated in the Junior Individual Performance Category for the third year, winning first place in both the regional and North Carolina state contests. Her project, “Williamina Fleming: Breaking Barriers with a Universe of Glass,” focused on one of the “human computers” who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fleming was the leading female astronomer of her day, making remarkable discoveries and breaking barriers for science and for women.
The national virtual contest awards ceremony was broadcast June 20, announcing the winners in all categories. Hardy won first place in Junior Individual Performance and is a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar. North Carolina students made a strong showing at nationals, with several placing and receiving special awards.
Hardy has advanced to nationals each year, but this is the first time she has been a national finalist. Although she missed having the live event, which is held on the campus of the University of Maryland and draws students from all 50 states and several territories and countries, she was thrilled that the contest went forward and that she has been able to represent North Carolina and to tell the story of Williamina Fleming.
To learn more about NHD, click to nhd.org.