National History Day

National History Day

On March 4, 2006, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a judge for the Arizona National History Day regional competition held at the Arizona Historical Society in Tempe, Arizona. I was placed in a group of three judges to analyze, interview, and judge the youth division’s fifth grade individual poster submissions. This year’s theme was “Taking a Stand in History,” and the topics that the students selected certainly illustrated this emphasis. The three topics of the fifth grade students that we approved to move on to the state competition displayed posters about the Irish political martyr Bobby Sands, American underground-railroad leader Harriet Tubman, and Civil War nurse Florence Nightingale. These students demonstrated exceptional knowledge on their subjects, had personal interests about their history topics, and displayed extremely creative posters which effectively illustrated both historical facts and their own analysis based on those facts.

National History Day (NHD) is a nation-wide competition for students between grades 6 through 12. The junior and senior divisions include five categories: historical papers, performances, websites, exhibits, and documentaries; the youth division has only a poster category. Throughout the process of preparing for the event, students expand their knowledge of historical content and critical thinking skills by doing original research on topics of their choosing. There are specific requirements for every entry that ask students to: (1) include a narrow topic with an appropriate title; (2) develop an accurate, research-based argument about their topic; (3) use primary and secondary sources; and, (4) include an annotated bibliography of the scholarly sources they use. Although each contestant must do extensive research to create their entry, this program allows students to use alternative means of communicating their historical discoveries through such disciplines as dramatic performances and art. NHD is an incredibly creative and authentic tool to construct student historical knowledge and provides students with an avenue for “doing” or applying history. NHD also keeps history teachers informed about current historical scholarship, and assists with meeting national educational standards. This event helps students become actively involved with history and provides teachers with great opportunities for professional development.

If you are a college student, teacher, or even fan of history, local National History Day events will soon have opportunities for you to be a judge too! Check out Arizona’s NHD opportunities: www.nhdarizona.org. And if you are an elementary or high student, you have a terriffic opportunity to participate in NHD. Just look up your state’s NHD website, or their national website.

For more info check out www.nationalhistoryday.org.