Erin Johnson created 13 characters to help her explain how the Mormon migration helped the desert bloom. Erin's 10-minute performance for the National History Day won not only the award for Outstanding Virginia Entry, but also third place in the Junior Individual Performance Division in the national contest.
National History Day, which occurs annually in June, is the culmination of a series of contests at successively higher levels. Students engage in extensive research in order to prepare papers, projects, performances, and media presentations based on a historical theme. This year, students focused on "Geography in History: People, Places, Time."Erin, a member of the McLean Virginia Stake, began work on her presentation, "The Mormon Migration and How it Made the Desert Bloom Like a Rose," last year as a 6th grader. Nine months and many performances later, Erin won top honors at the Virginia state competition and went on to the finals in Maryland.
The contest requires that participants do all of the research themselves, so Erin combed many of her ancestors' journals and conducted personal interviews to come up with the 13 distinct characters, including a Swedish boy, a surveyor, Brigham Young and a docent at the Mormon History Museum.
In 1994, National History Day celebrated its 20th year. The contest, since its inception, has involved the participation of 3.5 million students. This year more than 400,000 students entered, and more than 2,000 participated in the finals.
Other LDS students who won national awards included: Bradley Garber and Joseph B. Walker of Bountiful, Utah, who joined together to take first place in Junior Group Media; Kristen Runolfson of American Fork, Utah, Western Studies Award from the Bureau of Land Management; Paul Nelson of Bountiful, Utah, Outstanding Utah Entry; and Marie Creighton of Magna, Utah, Irish-American Award.