AKRON, Iowa | Five students from Akron-Westfield Middle School took first place in the Junior Group Performance Category at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Competition in College Park, Md. Their performance chronicled the impact of Route 66 on American history.
Not only did the Route 66 group prevail, but another group from Akron-Westfield placed fourth nationally in the Junior Group Documentary category with a documentary called "Peace Through Corn," about Nikita Khrushchev's 1959 visit to Coon Rapids, Iowa. The documentary also won Outstanding Entry for Iowa.
The competition required both research and dedication. Research began at the beginning of the school year in September, and concluded at the competition's end.
Each group was required to write an annotated bibliography for each source they used, and a 500-word paper detailing their process. The Route 66 group's bibliography ended up being 37 pages long.
While there were 3,200 students who made it to nationals in Washington, D.C., approximately 100,000 students internationally first completed projects to enter in the competition.
Among the other competitors were middle school students from China, Guam, and virtually every state in the U.S.
The team was coached by Pam Anderson, math teacher at East Middle School, and Val Phillips, history teacher at Akron-Westfield Middle School.
Phillips said it was the students' sense of humor that set them apart. "They not only had the historical facts but they were also creative and able to tell it in a humorous way, which really stuck out," said Phillips.
The Route 66 students traveled about 400 miles of Route 66 in their research.
"It was very exciting, of course, but it was really a team effort. Everything kind of came together," said Phillips.