Shorecliffs Middle School students, from left, Kate McKernan, Kelly McDonald, Sophia Burick and Zane Pert pose with their National History Day medals. The four competed in the national competition in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy
Shorecliffs Middle School students, from left, Kate McKernan, Kelly McDonald, Sophia Burick and Zane Pert pose with their National History Day medals. The four competed in the national competition in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy

By Eric Heinz

Four Shorecliffs Middle School students recently participated in National History Day, an annual competition that can span across the school year.

San Clemente sixth-grader Zane Pert, and eighth-graders Kate McKernan, Kelly McDonald and Sophia Burick competed in the national competition in Washington, D.C. The theme of this year’s National History Day was “explore, encounter and exchange.”

Pert did a project on Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In his report, Pert interviewed Hillary’s son, Peter, via his website about his father’s expedition. Pert presented his findings on a board with his thesis.

“I got some pretty incredible interviews,” Pert said. “I had to email him a few times, but he eventually got back to me.”

Pert’s thesis surrounded around the idea of Hillary’s exploration accomplishments as being significant contributions to society in that they inspired people to further their own pursuits of knowledge.

McKernan, McDonald and Burick put together a website that explores the history of sexism in the airline industry, particularly the requirements for flight attendants to dress a certain way in order to attract customers in the 1960s and 1970s.

“They were fighting against the objectification and wanted gender equality,” McKernan said. “By fighting against the objectification they endured from their employers, female flight attendants of the 1960s and 1970s pushed our society to explore the idea of gender equality and established themselves as a workforce to be reckoned with.”

Through their research, they looked through documents pertaining to the airline requirements at that time and how flight attendants fought back against these draconian mandates.

Their thesis and their project can be found at www.36229834.nhd.weebly.com.

Pert took fourth individually in his category, and McDonald, McKernan and Burick took first place for their project.

Making an award-winning project took hours of work and dedication, McDonald said.

“On the weekends we would all meet at each other’s houses for like two or three hours to collaborate, and throughout the week we would work on different arguments,” McDonald said.

Students were under tight scrutiny from judges at the county, state and national competitions. They had to present their arguments individually in order to demonstrate proficient knowledge of their subject.

They said they worked on their respective projects for about nine months from the beginning of the school year to the end.

Students in the honors programs at Shorecliffs must submit a project for National History Day, but only a select few make it to the higher rounds.

“We enjoy National History Day, and it’s a great way to push ourselves to go above and beyond,” McKernan said. “I never knew this topic that we presented even existed before we started working on it.”

Pert said he learned a lot about his topic, basically “becoming an expert” on his subject. The students have to have thorough citations when presenting their research. The students said their experience with National History Day was “intense” but rewarding.

For more information about National History Day, visit www.nhd.org.

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