Last week, I attended the National History Day contest at the University of Maryland, College Park. I’d previously volunteered at regional and state levels, but it was my first time going to the big show. And what a show it was: 2700 middle and high school students from all 50 states (and DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and Shanghai), all of whom had extensively researched a historical topic and carefully constructed a response related to the theme of debate and diplomacy. I was amazed and delighted by the work they created: consistently interesting exhibits, websites, documentaries, performances, and papers. Even more so, I was thrilled to discuss the students’ research with them, whether as part of the judging process, in the lobby of the American History Museum, or in line to see the panda at the zoo. These students were motivated by both the energy of competition and the rigor of the contest’s parameters: they were well served by their teachers and the NHD staff.
Students from Washington did well, including taking top honors in Senior Individual Documentary, Senior Group Website, and second, third, and fourth place in a number of other categories. Oregon also did well: With only three entries in the contest – all from tiny Helix High School – students finished third in the Senior Group Documentary category.
Lists of award winners are posted here. These students are from large and small communities; from public, private, and home-school settings; and tracked and heterogeneous classrooms. The list is incomplete, though: All students who participated are won a well-considered approach to doing history. If you’re a middle or high school teacher, you ought to consider building NHD into your curriculum.
Time to get started on next year’s theme: