SCHOOL - "State champion history students at Harris Intermediate School"

TREMONTON – By Cari Doutre – May 7, 2020


Aubree Fry and Shelby Wilkinson, two 7th grade students from Alice C. Harris Intermediate School in Tremonton, can now add the title of 2020 Utah State Champions in the Junior Division Group Website category. The title, and program, is part of the prestigious National History Day competition.

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Aubree Fry and Shelby Wilkinson - Courtesy Photo

Aubree and Shelby probably won’t forget the year 2020 anytime soon, but at least the year will be remembered for more than just a worldwide pandemic virus known as COVID-19, or coronavirus.

The Utah History Day, part of the official National History Day program and has was started in 1980. Operated by the Utah Division of State History, the competition promotes the importance of historical research and learning.

Every year thousands of students in Utah in 4th to 12th grades, participate in the Utah History Day competition, all vying for a spot in the national competition in Washington D.C. The competition is a chance for students to research historical events then create a project in one of nine categories.

“The Utah History Day program has provided the means to help higher level students develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It has also helped them to expand their research and reading skills,” said Julia Wilcox, a teacher at ACHIS and an advisor for the Utah History Day competition.

Students learn more than just history.

“When students are finished with their projects they have learned that writing is a process and not a one-time finished product. They learn to refine their presentational skills and express themselves creatively. They also learn to work together in a team and to meet deadlines,” Wilcox added.

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It takes months for students to complete their projects in time for competition. Students compete in a regional contest then top entries from there are invited to participate in the state competition.

Aubree and Shelby weren’t the only students from ACHIS to compete this year. Brooklynn Pond, Sophia Randall and Isabel Christensen also participated in the 2020 Cache/Box Elder Regional History Fair held March 3, at Utah State University in Logan. All five of them qualified to compete the state competition. Story continues below.

Isabel Christensen, Sophia Randall, Brooklynn Pond, Shelby Wilkinson and Aubree Fry - Courtesy Photo

But then plans changed. Instead of the traditional Utah History Day competition in Salt Lake City where all participants attend, the COVID-19 pandemic gave the program no other option – it had to be done virtually.

All student projects were submitted electronically this year and neither students nor judges attended a physical competition. Judges were unable to interview students which meant projects had to stand on their own.

On April 29, Aubree and Shelby got the long-awaited announcement – they were officially Utah State Champions in the Junior Group Website category. It also means they are invited to compete in the 2020 National History Day competition. Story continues below.

Shelby Wilkinson and Aubree Fry - Courtesy Photo
“We can’t believe we actually made it to the national competition. It is so cool,” said Aubree.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean a trip to Washington D.C., where the national competition is held each year. The 2020 National History Day competition will be held virtually in June.

"I am super proud of us for going all the way to nationals and I'm super sad to not be able to go to D.C.," added Shelby.

Aubree and Shelby’s group website project titled, “From Danger to Safety: How the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Saved America,” focuses on this tragic fire that happened in New York City on March 25, 1911.

“We chose to research about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 because it broke through the barriers of child labor, unsafe working conditions and labor union recognition,” Aubree said.

“This tragedy brought recognition Americans and the government of just how poorly children, immigrants and women were treated, and how unsafe conditions in the factories, mines and other places of employment really were,” she added.

"We entered our project into the website category because we wanted a challenge and we wanted to know how to build a website," said Shelby. "I learned so much about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and how to get good information for a topic."

For a closer look at Aubree and Shelby’s project, visit the official “From Danger to Safety: How the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Saved America” website HERE.

“I cannot brag about Shelby and Aubree enough,” said Wilcox. “They worked so hard.”

“I don't think anyone can really appreciate the amount of work this project requires unless you've experienced it. It requires hours and hours of reading, research, writing, and presenting,” Wilcox added.

It was also announced on April 29, that Brooklynn Pond, also a 7th grader at ACHIS, was named a finalist in the Junior Division Individual Documentary category for her project titled, “Did You Hear? Chuck Yeager Broke the Sound Barrier.”

Brooklynn Pond - Courtesy Photo

“My hope is that all of them learn that history really is fun, but more importantly, that learning is fun. I think that Shelby, Aubree and the other girls who participated in the program this year have learned so much about not only their topics of study, but also about themselves and the kind of students they want to be,” Wilcox said.

That hope Wilcox mentioned may have already begun.

“We learned from researching this topic that there are many problems and unfair challenges in life, and it takes courage to be the first to take a stand and fight for what’s right,” Aubree said.

For more information on these programs, click on the links below.

The official Utah History Day website

The official National History Day website