Date: 08.09.2021 (Season 3, Episode 10; 54:13) Click here for the BuzzSprout versions of this Speak Your Piece Episode. The above image is a screen capture of Camellia and Acacia Yuan’s Utah History Day’s video, Helen Foster Snow: The Bridge Connecting the U.S. and China. Are you interested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here for more episodes.
Historian Wendy Rex Atzet, along with two young historians, Cami and Acacia Yuan, speak about the power and purpose of history, and about an amazing history program, offered to grade school to high school students, statewide.
Utah’s National History Day program (NHD Utah) offers a year-long academic extra-curricular program which focuses on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for students between the 4th and 12th-grades. Students may produce websites, exhibits, theatrical pieces, research papers, and short documentaries. Public school students Camellia and Acacia Yuan from Logan, Utah, have participated in National History Day for a number of years; and have been fortunate enough to win at both state competitions and at the national level, the latter in College Park, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Children of Chinese American immigrants Cami and Acacia have focused most of their submissions on little known stories centered on the historical intersection between Utah and China, with big national and international implications. They have both researched and produced three short film documentaries: “Utah Pioneers on the Transcontinental Railroad”, “An Unforgettable Aerial Massacre: The Chongqing Bombing” and “Helen Foster Snow: The Bridge Connecting the Us and China” (See Links Below).
Dr. Rex Atzet (Statewide Coordinator and Public History Manager, Utah Division of State History) and the Yuan sisters describe three of Yuan’s National History Day submissions. They also describe their research process (including digital resources and conducting hands-on research with one-of-a-kind archival materials housed in local academic libraries), visiting local museums, performing taped interviews, and the travel they pursued during their research quests. This interview is an excellent introduction for teachers, parents and students who are considering getting involved in the National History Day program.
Topics Discussed in Time:
- Minute: 00:00 – 05:15 Host Brad Westwood introduces National History Day Program Coordinator Wendy Rex Atzet, along with two young historians: Camie Yuan and Acacia Yuan. National History Day in Utah based in the Utah Division of State History (Utah Department of Culture & Community Engagement). Wendy has more than ten years of experience managing the National History Day program at the state level in Colorado and in Utah. Acacia Yuan and Cami Yuan are sisters from Logan, Utah. They have become youth historians through Utah’s National History Day program. They have worked together to create historical film documentaries, as part of the NHD program, and have created award-winning projects for the last three years.
- Minute: 05:15 – 09:50 Camie Yuan and Acacia Yuan narrate their first involvement with National History Day through a school club solely dedicated to researching historical events and figures where they discovered their love for documentary film production. Both Camie and Acacia have received various awards; the 2019 Glen and Caroline Miner Prize in Utah History for the project: “Utah Pioneers on the Transcontinental Railroad”, 2020 National Qualifier and Fort Douglas Military History Prize, for the project: “An Unforgettable Aerial Massacre: The Chongqing Bombing”, 2021 Glen and Caroline Miner Prize in Utah History, for the project: “Helen Foster Snow: The bridge Connecting the U.S. and China”.
- Minute: 09:50 – 18:06 Wendy explains how the National History Day model is centered on student choice and student voice, students are able to choose their own topic of research. Camie and Acacia speak about their connection to Chinese culture and the Western world, specifically in Utah. By engaging in their projects they were able to obtain a better understanding of their family origins.
- Minute: 18:06 – 29:00 Camie and Acacia talk about their discoveries while conducting research on the topic of the bombing of Chongqing and Helen Foster Snow. The young historians share the primary sources that have been most useful to them. h
- Minute: 29:00 – 33:44 The young historians share their insights about how immigrants connect nations. Camie shares that once immigrants land in a new country the process of acculturation or the assimilation of two different cultures initiates the connection between communities.
- Minute: 33:44 – 36:00 Camie and Acacia discuss their research on Helen Foster Snow, an American journalist born and raised in Utah. Helen Foster Snow helped reshaped the relationship between the US and China. Historical records regarding Helen Foster Snow continue to be hosted at Utah State University and L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU.
- Minute: 36:00 – 42:47 People are often surprised by what they find when they dig a little deeper into history; the sisters shared how they were able to look at different perspectives and had a change of thought towards historical events. They both were able to reconnect with their families and talk about their great grandparents who witnessed the Chongqing bombings.
- Minute: 42:47 – 54:13 Wendy informs listeners how their children and students can become involved in Utah’s National History Day. The program operates year round and culminates every summer with an international competition. The program is more than just presenting papers, it’s about students becoming confident in their own voice and sharing what they have learned while understanding the complexities of the histories they research.
National History Day Awards:
- 2019 Glen and Caroline Miner Prize in Utah History, for the project: “Utah Pioneers on the Transcontinental Railroad,”
- 2020 National Qualifier and Fort Douglas Military History Prize, for the project: “An Unforgettable Aerial Massacre: The Chongqing Bombing.”
- 2021 Glen and Caroline Miner Prize in Utah History, for the project: “Helen Foster Snow: The bridge connecting the US and China”
- 2021 Best Documentary Film Winner of Aasha International Film Festival for Helen Foster Snow
Bio: Dr. Wendy Rex-Atzet is the State Coordinator for National History Day in Utah; a Utah Division of State history statewide program. Wendy has more than ten years of experience managing the National History Day program at the state level in Colorado and in Utah. Wendy is passionate about helping young people connect with history through hands-on, relevant learning experiences. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder where she specialized in cultural and environmental history of the American West. She holds an M.A in history from San Diego State University, and a B.A in communications from the University of Utah.
Bio: Camellia “Camie” Yuan will be an upcoming senior at Logan High School, Logan Utah. National History Day(NHD) has played a huge role in her life since 7th grade. Besides learning about history, she also does debate, serves as the Service VP in Logan High’s Student Government, founded Asian Student Association and S2S (Student to Student) Non-profit and is an Ambassador for 4H National and Utah Center for Legal Inclusion. In her near future, she would like to help speak up for underrepresented individuals.
Bio: Acacia Yuan is a 7th grader at Thomas Edison Charter School, Nibley Utah. She loves history, math, zoology, tennis, singing and figure skating because they are fun! She served in the Student Lighthouse and Ambassadors team to organize school events. Being an animal rights fighter, she is motivated to open a shelter for all stray animals as her lifetime career.
Additional Resources & Readings:
The National History Day affiliate in Utah is managed by the Utah Division of State History and is known as Utah History Day — Utah History Day website
National History Day is a year-long academic program focused on historical research, interpretation and creative expression for 6th- to 12th-grade students — National History Day website
Camellia and Acacia Yuan’s National History Day YouTube video: Helen Foster Snow: The Bridge Connecting the U.S. and China — May 19, 2021
Camellia and Acacia Yuan’s National History Day YouTube video: An Unforgettable Aerial Massacre: The Chongqing Bombing — Jul 16, 2020
To learn more about the topics discussed in this episode and to support Camillia and Acacia’s historical documentaries you can also visit the NHD Utah Documentary Gallery at https://history.utah.gov/utah-history-day/project-gallery-documentary/
Do you have a question or comment, or a proposed guest for “Speak Your Piece?” Write us at “ask a historian” – email@example.com