Middle-schoolers’ Route 66 presentation wins national contest

Akron-Westfield team, National History Day

A group of middle-school students from rural Iowa captured a national title for their Route 66 presentation during the annual National History Day contest in Maryland last week.

Jack Anderson, Jader Briggs, Megan Swancutt, Daytona Foley and Logan Smith of Akron-Westfield Community School in Akron, Iowa, finished first place in the Junior Group Performance division at nationals with their “Route 66: The Road of Possibilities.” Their teacher is Val Philips. Akron-Westfield Community School is north of Sioux City in northwest Iowa.

The team’s performance won state competition in April.

A video of the 10-minute play during the national competition, courtesy of Route 66 Alliance co-founder Rick Freeland, may be viewed below. The performances, quick pacing and writing seem pretty polished for actors so young.

The Akron-Westfield students were among almost 3,000 participating at the national finals, which was whittled down from more than 600,000 competitors initially. Each winning team earned $1,000 in prize money.

In April, several of the students took a three-day field trip on Route 66 in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri to conduct research for the project. They interviewed “Route 66: The Mother Road” author Michael Wallis and Cyrus Stevens Avery II, grandson of the “Father of Route 66” Cyrus Avery, and visited the Powers Museum in Carthage, Missouri, and other Route 66 sites.

The middle-schoolers spent six to 10 hours a week since September on research, writing a script, practicing their performances and building the set.

The National History Day contest is an academic-enrichment program that challenges students to research, develop and present papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances about historical issues, ideas, people and events related to an annual theme. This year’s theme for the contest was “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”

(Hat tip to Michael Wallis and Michele Newton Hansford; image courtesy of Wallis)

2 thoughts on “Middle-schoolers’ Route 66 presentation wins national contest

  1. This is awesome! Our local Greene County Historical Society has supported our local History Day winners for years with a small monetary donation to help them in their travels for further competition. It is wonderful to see a group win for a Route 66 themed presentation, especially since they are not in a Route 66 state. Way to go kids!

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