The projects featured were all created by 6th-12th grade students in Washington State for the 2020 Washington History Day State Contest. Some students even advanced onto the national contest to represent our state.

Each project required thorough historical research looking at both primary and secondary sources as well as interpretation and establishing a relationship to the theme Breaking Barriers in History. The websites, papers, performances, exhibitions, and documentaries provided below are accompanied by annotated bibliographies as well as process papers explaining the work done by each student or group.

Congratulations to every student and teacher who participated in the National History Day program this year! We’re thrilled to know there are so many capable, intelligent, and creative students across Washington State who show a passion and talent for understanding and interpreting history!

Junior Projects: 6th-8th Grade


Junior Individual Documentaries

Tearing Down the Wall of Pain

Kathryn Holland

Brighton School, Mountlake Terrace

Bibliography & Process Paper

Anesthesia broke the pain barrier to surgery, both physically and mentally, such that we are now able to undergo operations which would have been possible before.


Barbara McClintock – Jumping Barriers with Jumping Genes

Vibhaakshayaa Sathish Kumar

Skyview Middle School, Bothell

Bibliography & Process Paper

Barbara McClintock, an early pioneer in the study of maize genetics, discovered the revolutionizing concept of jumping genes. Known as transposons, these sequences of DNA can relocate within a genome. Her findings and way of thinking were radically different than what was perceived to be the norm, developing a scientific barrier. As a female scientist, Barbara McClintock also faced a gender barrier as her research was dismissed by the male-dominated scientific community. The substantial load of skepticism and criticism among the male scientists did not slow McClintock. Her determination only grew and through strong perseverance in her discovery of jumping genes, McClintock broke through these significant barriers. Overall, this entry possesses an excellent connection to the theme of “Breaking Barriers in History”.


The History of the United Nations and Its Impact on World Peace

Amish Patra

Kamiakin Middle School, Redmond

Bibliography & Process Paper

The United Nations was established in 1945. Since then, the delegates and the organization have worked tirelessly to solve the problems that faced the world. In doing so, the UN broke the barriers between countries so that they could reach a common ground in negotiations. Even though the UN is recognized for its humanitarian works today, the original intent was for it to function as a peacekeeping organization. Its formation shows this intent, and though it was formed during a war, the delegates were able to break the barriers facing them and create a world organization that would keep generations safe for years to come.

Junior Group Documentaries

Aristides de Sousa Mendes: Defiance in the Name of Compassion

Antonia Kwan, Ava Chen, Sophia Bai, Daniel Choi, Ethan Schroeder

Tyee Middle School, Bellevue

Bibliography & Process Paper

As a diplomat with a conscience for compassion and religious beliefs, Aristides de Sousa Mendes broke the barrier that prevented fleeing refugees from seeking sanctuary in Portugal during WWII by deliberately signing visas in blatant defiance of the unjust Portuguese government. His sacrifice stripped him and his family of their welfare and security and left them in desolate poverty, in a courageous act that saved millions of lives and sought to break the barriers of political idleness and corruption.


Protecting the Unprotected: The Story of Margaret Sanger

Anushka Arun, Emily Stuart

Evergreen Middle School, Redmond

Bibliography & Process Paper

Beginning in the early 1900s, Margaret Sanger became a national leader in the women’s rights movement as she devoted her life to breaking both the social and economic barriers for women, defying laws that kept them subordinate to their male counterparts and working to secure access to reproductive rights. ​Her work continues to impact women today by not only directly providing birth control and contraceptive services through her organization, Planned Parenthood, but also has contributed to women’s rights, allowing them to continue breaking barriers of their own.


Junior Individual Exhibits

The Battle of Yorktown: Breaking the British Empire’s Invisibility

Cooper Brix

Leota Middle School, Woodinville

Bibliography & Process Paper

My topic relates to the theme, Breaking Barriers because their defeat at Yorktown broke the British Empire’s reputation of invincibility. With the help of influential leaders such as General George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, the Patriots were able to win the battle and end the long-running American Revolution. This victory motivated colonies from around the world to seek their own independence, such as Mexico and Nova Scotia. It also was an example for other colonizers to respect and not impose taxes on their colonies. Some historians say that the victory of America’s Revolution inspired revolutions in other countries, such as France and Spain. The reason I wanted to do this project is that I think it is essential for people to know history, especially the history of the United States. I hope that people see my project, learn from it, and teach others.

Junior Group Exhibits

The Movable Type: How it Acted as an Agent of Information in History and Enabled Access to Knowledge

Aichen Arun, Sean Park

Tyee Middle School, Bellevue

Bibliography & Process Paper

The movable type, originally invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 C.E., later developed in Korea using metal, and with further improvement made by Gutenberg in 1455 C.E., broke the barrier of poor efficiency of printing technology. The mobility and effectiveness of the movable type played an important role in history and human development, breaking the barrier of inability to spread knowledge, and caused human civilization to accelerate around the world. It had significant impact in Mass Printing of Books, Spread of Knowledge, Facilitated Communication, and Standardization of Information.


Alan Turing: Thinking the Unthinkable, Solving the Unsolvable

Raymond Li, Caleb Li, Dylan de Leon

Tyee Middle School, Bellevue

Bibliography & Process Paper

Alan Turing is a British mathematician turned into a WWII codebreaker that helped the Allied Forces crack the German ENIGMA code through the use of innovative machines that could get the job done not only with accuracy, but with unprecedented efficiency as well. Before Turing, the thought of thinking machines was an imagination and was believed to be impossible. His works paved the path for artificial intelligence and modern technology and broke theoretical computer science barriers.


“A World Not Built For Me” – Steve Serio
Timothy Nugent Strives for a More Accessible World

Colin Sarabosing, Brandon Luo

Tyee Middle School, Bellevue

Bibliography & Process Paper

Our project relates to 2020’s theme of breaking barriers in history because Timothy Nugent and his movement towards equality for people with disabilities helped take down ableism discrimination. Without him, people with disabilities wouldn’t be able to get jobs, education, or live a normal life. He also helped redefine what it means to be a person with disabilities by breaking the stereotype that people with disabilities couldn’t contribute in society.


Junior Individual Websites

Junior Group Websites

Breaking the Barrier of Segregation: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Ella Hall, Saisha Lakkoju

Bibliography & Process Paper

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a central development in the Civil Rights Era that broke the barrier of segregation on public buses in Alabama. The boycott inspired African Americans, increased participation in the Civil Rights Movement all over America, and promoted the concepts of equity and antiracism. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was an event in history that broke barriers because the law that was passed in Alabama in response to the boycott tore down the barrier of segregation. In addition, the boycott gave Americans hope for the future, as this event was proof that things could change if action was taken.


A Radioactive Revolution: Marie Curie’s Legacy

Sarah Ramzan, Sarah Yun

Explorer Middle School, Everett

Bibliography & Process Paper

Our website is about how Marie Curie broke scientific as well as gender barriers for her revolutionary contributions to science. She discovered radium, polonium, and pioneered radioactivity research, becoming the first woman to delve into these fields. These pursuits were very successful for Marie, and her discoveries still influence physics and chemistry today. Marie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, is still the only woman to be a two-time Nobel Laureate, and is the only person to have Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. Her determination to succeed broke barriers in science and for women in science, setting the stage for many things ranging from cancer treatment to electricity plants that are still used today.


Second Wave Feminism

Brandi Heyer, Claire Smith

Explorer Middle School, Lynnwood

Bibliography & Process Paper

This project showcases how the Second Wave of feminism, which took place from the 1960s to the 1980s, broke numerous gender barriers in the workplace, in healthcare, in the home, and in the eye of the law. It also helped dismantle the longstanding patriarchy, showing the world that women are indeed equal to men and have the right to the same opportunities and liberties.


Junior Individual Performances

Junior Group Performances

Flat-earth Fear

BrieLynn McLean, Celeste Packard, Lana Roy, Cody Tew

HomeLink Yakima, Yakima

Bibliography & Process Paper

In the year 1515, sailors who wanted to explore the world had a problem. No one wanted to sail on ships beyond the horizon (where they couldn’t see land anymore) because they were afraid the ships would fall off the edge.  Even though Greek scientists had figured out centuries ago that the world was round, the masses did not believe it.   They were uneducated, there were few books, few schools – so it was easier to believe in myths.  If it had not been for Antonio Pigafetta’s journal, which was written as he sailed around the world with Magellan, the barrier of ignorance about the spherical world would have stayed hidden for most of Europe’s population. The conclusion of the performance depicts the results of the second Magellan voyage during the late 20th century, this time to the planet Venus.  The information gathered during that project is compared to Pigafetta’s contribution during the first Magellan voyage.


Louis Braille: Breaking Barriers in the Dark

Kierstan Dotzauer, Sophia Kuhnlein, Emilia McGaha

Anacortes Middle School, Anacortes

Bibliography & Process Paper

Our play is about Louis Braille, the man who perfected a new language for blind people. Braille, named after him, allowed blind people to read. It is a tactile writing system using raised dots in different patterns to allow the visually impaired to read. Louis Braille relates to the NHD theme of breaking barriers, because he encountered many barriers in his life. The most significant being in education. Instead of just accepting that, he took matters into his own hands and created a reading system. This broke a large barrier for the visually impaired of being able to read and be educated.


Junior Papers

Wangari Maathai: The Barriers She  Broke for a Greener and More Just World

Allan Xuan

Leota Middle School, Redmond

Bibliography & Process Paper

Wangari Maathai lived in the 1900’s, a time of great breakthroughs in science, society, and politics. As Africa transformed from divided colonies to independent nations, Africans began to experience huge environmental and political changes. Maathai, a normal Kenyan citizen, attempted to bring the world in the right direction. Through tree planting, Maathai has reshaped the lives of millions of disempowered Africans. She not only broke gender barriers in education and employment, but also overcame seemingly insurmountable political oppression in her home country. Furthermore, she improved the lives of rural Kenyans by helping them transcend their economic predicament, a position caused by decades of environmental degradation, corrupt governing, and disempowerment.


Towards a Greater Racial Equality: Brown v. Board, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Barrier of Segregation

Annabella Li

Redmond Middle School, Redmond

Bibliography & Process Paper

My project explained how the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education impacted and helped to break legal, psychological, physical, and social barriers of racial segregation. In particular, it focuses on the connection between Brown v. Board, the public reactions it elicited, and the Civil Rights Movement.


Tunisia’s Arab Spring: Breaking Barriers in the Middle East

Nawal Ahmad

Charles Wright Academy, University Place

Bibliography & Process Paper

This paper is about the causes and effects of Tunisia’s Arab Spring, which removed a 22-year dictatorship and improved democracy, justice, and women’s rights in Tunisia as well as sparking change throughout the Middle East. The paper relates to the theme, Breaking Barriers because challenging the precedents set forth regarding women’s rights in a religious country in the Middle East was a complicated feat. Additionally, the act led to a cascade of other democratically-motivated rebellions in the region. Finally, expelling a dictator of more than two decades, who was supported by both the military and the police, in just a single month best exemplified the Tunisian’s inspiring determination.

Senior Projects: 9th-12th Grade


Senior Individual Documentaries

Dr. Patricia Bath: Breaking Racial, Gender, Medical and Economic Barriers

Alexandria Pereira

Delta High School, Richland

Bibliography & Process Paper

This documentary looks at Dr. Patricia Bath and her significant contribution to the field of ophthalmology. She broke racial, gender, medical, and economic barriers in her passionate pursuit for access to quality eye care, equal access to education and to save the sight of millions worldwide.


Dr. Mae C. Jemison: Breaking Racial and Gender Barriers in Space

Abi MacDuff

Delta High School, Pasco

Bibliography & Process Paper

Dr. Mae Jemison was born in the 1950’s with aspirations to become an astronaut. In order for her dreams to become a reality, racial and technological barriers would have to be broken. In 1992, Jemison boarded the Space Shuttle endeavor, become the first female who was a woman of color to enter space. Today, Dr. Jemison continues to inspire people to break social barriers that have been placed upon them while she is working to break current space-travel barriers.

Senior Group Documentary

Americans in the Holocaust: How Individuals Played a Role in the Resistance

Annabelle Falconer

Ballard High School, Seattle

Bibliography & Process Paper

Our project follows the story of Charlotte Wollheim, a Holocaust survivor from Germany whose family was able to escape to the US with a sponsorship from a family member. Through her story, we highlight the impact that just one person had when they decided to break through the complex procedural barriers and anti-immigration attitudes that were present in the late 1930s and early 1940s America. By telling her story, we hope to reinforce a vital lesson in history about the importance of breaking away from the national silence and sense of neglect and instead acting on what you know is the right thing to do by your own morals.


Senior Individual Exhibits

Blind Fanaticism: The Hitler Youth

Janessa Hansen

Kent Mountain View Academy, Kent

Bibliography & Process Paper

The Nazis broke through a barrier when they turned innocent children into racist bigots by using extreme indoctrination tactics creating the Hitler Youth. Fortunately, the Hitler Youth broke through a barrier when they learned to overcome the hatred they had been taught by learning about other cultures, the meaning of democracy, and the truth behind the Holocaust.

Senior Group Exhibits


Abigail Andersen, Grace Wasser

Vancouver iTech Preparatory, Vancouver

Bibliography & Process Paper

In 1970, 46 women sued Newsweek Magazine for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This lawsuit was the first of its kind in media, and while it only made marginal differences at Newsweek (with a few exceptions), it encouraged many other women in the media to take part in similar lawsuits, changing the media forever.


Senior Individual Websites

Japanese Americans Breaking Racial Barriers During WWII

Reagan Lund

Prairie High School, Vancouver

Bibliography & Process Paper

Nisei soldiers of the 442nd RCT broke both the physical barrier of barbed wire encircled internment camps to fight in Europe AND the societal barrier of racial prejudice through their demonstration of fearless valor in combat thereby proving that they were loyal and trustworthy citizens regardless of their ancestry. Their achievements supplied the evidence that began to break down America’s anti-Japanese barriers. Immigration, citizenship, and land ownership laws were rewritten.  Many of the 442nd’s veterans, including Art Koura, became beloved and respected community leaders after WWII, validating that they had indeed broken through discriminatory racial barriers. What happened to Japanese Americans during WWII provides a sobering lesson about what can happen when emotional hyperbole drives governmental policy — namely the loss of civil liberties and the intentional institutionalization of discrimination against a class of people.    It is increasingly important that we do not let fear categorically control our response to modern events such as the 9/11 attacks and the current global pandemic. We must do our best to remember that ancestry and race should not automatically incur discrimination and prejudice. The Woodwards provided a wonderful example for us to follow. Compassion is a powerful ally. Nidoto Nai Yoni — Let it Not Happen Again


Breaking Barriers: Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

Erica Huynh

Lake Washington High School, Kirkland

Bibliography & Process Paper

Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 broke political barriers in China when young democratic students attempted to fight against laws that prevented freedom. Their persistence of basic human rights in a politically growing country challenged the Chinese government’s power. The protests ended in failure and the barriers the government built is now stronger than ever.

Senior Group Websites

Breaking Barriers, Constructing Commerce: Breaking Japan’s Barrier of Isolation

Alex Dimov, Samarth Venkatesh

Bothell High School, Kenmore

Bibliography & Process Paper

The barrier that Japan put up in the Sakoku isolation period was broken by the Matthew Perry Expedition, allowing Japan to modernize and opening the country up for foreign trade and outside influences.


Reaching for the Stars: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin’s Struggle to Break Social and Scientific Barriers

Mihir Mishra, Amy Shrivastrava

International Community School, Kirkland

Bibliography & Process Paper

By discovering that stars are composed of Hydrogen and Helium and establishing that stars could be classified by their temperatures, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin broke barriers in stellar astronomy and women’s rights. She paved the way for new discoveries in astronomy and for women in scientific fields by becoming the first female professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.


Senior Individual Performances

Just as Sane as I Am: Nellie Bly’s Expose of Blackwell’s Asylum

Nevada Nelson

Kent Mountain View Academy, Kent

Bibliography & Process Paper

After Nellie Bly was given the assignment to go undercover at Blackwell’s Asylum, what she found shocked her and the public which she reported for—her findings changed the way that we look at those with a mental illness, helped begin breaking down the barriers between the public and asylums across the country, and helped give supposedly insane patients a fair trial.


The Freedom Writers: Breaking Educational and Societal Barriers for a Better Future

Maritza Barragan Orozco

Prosser High School, Prosser

Bibliography & Process Paper

This performance is about Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers and the barriers they broke to change their lives for the better. Erin Gruwell was a new L.A. teacher eager to make a difference in the lives of her students. However, her dreams of fighting injustice in an urban classroom come to a halt when her students, the “unteachable, at-risk” students do everything in their power to make her job hell. Her struggle with her students comes to an all-time high when she intercepted a note with a drawing of a racial caricature her students made of each other. When she angrily tells her students that things like this were the things that lead to the Holocaust, she is met with uncomprehending looks. Her students, a group of kids who’d been in gangs, who’d laid friends to rest for gunshot and knife wounds, who’d been in juvenile detention, who’d lived in abusive households, had never heard of the Holocaust. With this in grim irony in mind, she decided to use tolerance and writing to change the lives of her students and give them a voice to tell their stories.

Senior Group Performances

The Extraordinary Life of Miss Anne Lister

Beverly Leithead, Bernice McKee, Makayla Backmeier-Evans

Kent Mountain View Academy, Kent

Bibliography & Process Paper

Our project is on Miss Anne Lister of Shibden hall who made a point to break the barrier of expectations society had for her; she wore all black and dressed on the masculine side of fashion, was respectably more educated than the average woman would be, dated women, was a successful businesswoman, and owned Shibden hall.


Senior Papers

Deregulation and the 2008 Financial Crisis: How Deregulation Broke Financial Regulatory Barriers and Nearly Destroyed the US Economy

Jeffrey Chen

Homeschool, Bellevue

Bibliography & Process Paper

Financial regulations created a legal barrier that safeguarded the US economy for four decades after the Great Depression. However, after the 1970s, pro-deregulation advocates began to argue that financial regulations restricted the competitiveness of American banks in the global economy. The financial deregulation movement, symbolized by the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the revocation of the Net Capital Rule in 2004, gradually broke through these long-standing regulatory barriers. For a short while, deregulatory policies stimulated impressive economic growth. However, this temporary prosperity was subsequently overshadowed by the greatest financial disaster in modern history, which nearly destroyed the US economy in 2008. During and after the crisis, several remedies were implemented, including an enormous bailout of the US financial sector and the introduction of new regulatory legislation such as the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Since then, many new regulations have been proposed, and there have been debates over whether they are both effective and well-suited for the modern world of banking.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Razing Barriers in Gender

Jillian Holbrook

Mead Senior High School, Spokane

Bibliography & Process Paper

For my National History Day paper this year, I had the honor of researching the life and accomplishments of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how she broke barriers in gender. Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodies a powerful female role model. Through her work founding the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing against sex-based discrimination in court, and upholding equality for all people as a justice of the Supreme Court, she has shattered the glass ceiling and provided women with greater rights and opportunity. American history, in particular, is vastly about the extension of protections to previously excluded groups. Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued hundreds of cases against sex-based discrimination in court to accomplish just that. For the groundbreaking work Ginsburg has undertaken to extend gender equity and equality, she truly is the epitome of breaking historical barriers.