St Columba’s Catholic Primary School Leichhardt North students Catherine Angelos and Molly Smith have been named joint state winners in the 2021 National History Challenge.

The National History Challenge is a research-based competition, run by the History Teachers’ Association of Australia, in which students explore a topic of their choosing while responding to a set theme. The 2021 theme was Significance: History Matters.

Year 3 student Catherine investigated the significance of Florence Nightingale’s contributions to the nursing industry in a Google Slides presentation. Year 4 student Molly wrote an essay that considered issues associated with the discovery of Mungo Man by Jim Bowler and his archaeological team.

The pair jointly took out top honours in the Primary 1 category (Years 1-4) for NSW and were presented with certificates in a ceremony at the ANZAC Memorial at Hyde Park on Monday, 6 December.

Inspiration strikes

Catherine said the idea for researching Florence Nightingale came to her after watching the TV series Horrible Histories.

“I had just watched an episode about Florence Nightingale and thought it would be a good topic because of its link to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Catherine explained.

“It’s really interesting that Florence Nightingale’s contributions continue to be used in modern nursing” – Catherine Angelos 

Meanwhile, Molly’s research was prompted by her teacher, Cara Fletcher-Murphy (St Columba’s Newman Facilitator and Diverse Learning Co-Ordinator).

“After Mrs Murphy told me the story of Mungo Man, I thought that the Aboriginal people hadn’t been treated the way they should have been and I felt we should show respect and understanding of how that made them feel,” Molly said.

“It shocked me to think about how the feelings of the Aboriginal people had originally been ignored.” 

Molly (left) and Catherine (right) were presented their winners certificates in a special ceremony at the ANZAC Memorial at Hyde Park.

Better off for it

Catherine said that taking part in the challenge has helped her develop new learning skills and given her more confidence in her abilities.

“Participating in the competition has taught me that I can create a report on something that is important to me, independently,” Catherine said.

“I was very shocked and didn’t expect to win because there were so many who participated in the challenge. But I feel happy that my learning has been recognised.”

For Molly, undertaking the research has helped her gain a new perspective on things that were previously unknown to her.

“I found that the questions that came about from the discovery were really interesting,” she said.

“It’s taught me that the determination and effort you put into learning can make lots of things happen” – Molly Smith

Developing critical thinkers 

Cara Fletcher-Murphy, the pair’s teacher at St Columba’s, said Catherine and Molly were both extremely worthy winners.

“I think the ability of the girls to look at the situation from a variety of different perspectives was what set them apart,” Mrs Fletcher-Murphy said.

“It’s a project that requires higher order thinking skills and you really have to be a resilient learner and a learner who asks questions” – Cara Fletcher-Murphy

Mrs Fletcher-Murphy said the duo approached the challenge with an intelligence and maturity well beyond their years.

“The theme of the challenge was very abstract for Year 3 and Year 4 students, so the way they applied themselves to research, and the way they persevered through the project and to not be overwhelmed was very impressive,” she said.

“We’re all incredibly proud of both of them.”