A Year for the History Books for Bronxville Students and Teachers
On a Thursday evening in early March, an audience gathered at the New York Historical Society to celebrate the 50th anniversary of National History Day. Famous historians, documentary filmmakers, and Historical Society executives were in attendance as the host of History Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, Don Wildman introduced the main attraction - Bronxville students Leo Nevezhin, Katherine Gunduz, and Anne Petrillo. The students were exclusively invited, along with their teachers Dana Landesman and Christina Reidel, to present last year’s national winning group exhibition project: Chernobyl Disaster: How Diplomatic Pressure Pushed the Soviet Union to Mitigate the Disaster and Created International Debate on Nuclear Energy. “It was extraordinary to see Leo, Katherine and Anne so eloquently field questions from the history channel host and audience members,” said Ms. Reidel. “As their former ninth grade teacher, I took great joy in seeing their knowledge, skills and maturity grow over time. It was wonderful to see that student history research could reach the caliber that was exhibited through Leo, Katherine, and Anne's project.”
The National History Day (NHD) Competition has been a part of Bronxville High School for eight years. The program has been led by Ms. Landesman and Ms. Reidel, and it’s a highlight for students and teachers alike. Projects led by the students themselves offer an opportunity for deeper understanding through extensive research and creative presentations of their claims in a diverse range of formats - exhibitions, documentaries, performances, research papers, or websites.
“Through the process of working on my project, I learned how to think and organize information in a creative way,” said Leo. “Understanding the different perspectives through multiple sources, including newly released research around the anniversary of Chernobyl, I discovered it to be a great historical example of how collaboration between nations can solve big world problems.”
The NHD program is built into the ninth and tenth grade social studies program at Bronxville High School. And this year, Bronxville had 34 of its high school students and, for the first time, five eighth grade students who won at the National History Day Regional competition in West Nyack on March 25th. They are expected to revise and improve their projects using evaluations from their judges to prepare for the New York State Competition at SUNY-Oneonta on April 24th. “My eighth graders voluntarily entered projects into the regional competition. Through the NHD work some students were able to pursue their passions, photography, military technology, running/film making respectively. One student and her family took a trip to the Eastman Kodak museum in Rochester to explore the archival material on her topic,” said Ms. Reidel.
“The accomplishments of our students are nothing short of astonishing. The NHD program aligns with many of our school’s beliefs and values in education, as outlined in The Bronxville Promise, along with the Innovative Designs for Education (IDE) work we, as educators, have been doing on a district level over the past several years,” said Ms. Landesman. “NHD projects lean on executive functioning, time-management and organizational skills that are critical to student empowerment, success, and leadership in school and beyond.”
To that end, upperclassmen have parlayed their NHD experience into an opportunity to mentor other students by helping them with their projects as they prepare for upcoming competitions. One such student, Leo Nevezhin, has taken the knowledge gained from his NHD successes to invite a larger conversation that will take place in Bronxville School’s auditorium on June 10th at the first-ever TEDx Bronxville HS event. Leading a team of 20 Bronxville High School students, Leo is tapping into creative thinking and task-oriented organization to harness the voices from the Bronxville community, school, and experts from the greater metropolitan area.
“Our theme for TEDx Bronxville HS is ‘Movement is Everywhere’. I was inspired by the nearby Bronx River and felt it was important to have a local connection that complements the broader concept of moving forward,” said Leo. “Mostly, I wanted to do this to give people a voice who don’t always have one.”
It has been a notable year for Bronxville’s history buffs and we are thrilled that Ms. Landesman has been named as a nominee for National History Day Teacher of the Year representing New York State. Nominees demonstrate a commitment to engaging students in historical learning through the innovative use of primary sources, implementation of active learning strategies to foster historical thinking skills, and participation in the NHD Contest.
“This award recognizes the very best educators from across the nation and beyond,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “These educators are leaders and innovators in the teaching of history. They engage their students with hands-on, inquiry-based learning with primary sources. I congratulate them on their well-deserved nominations.”
The national winner will be selected by a committee of experienced teachers and historians and announced on Thursday, June 15, 2023, at the National History Day National Contest Awards Ceremony in College Park, Maryland.
“It has been an incredibly rewarding experience running this program for the past several years with Ms. Reidel. The best part is seeing students stretch and grow the skills that are so important in school and life,” said Ms. Landesman. “I am impressed by their work, year after year.”