National History Day

11 Mar

On March 2nd I participated in my first National History Day. NHD is a nationwide program that encourages primary and secondary students to research topics in history according to a specific theme and present their projects in competition. Students pick a topic, research it, and create an exhibit, a documentary, a performance, or write an original paper. Although the Regional Competition was held at the University of Arizona in early March, the students’ work began last fall when they first came into the archives with a broad subject and archivists helped them determine their first research steps. Those projects that began in the archives in September culminated this month at the regional competition. Students came dressed in business clothes with projects in hand, and the eagerness and excitement amongst them was palpable. It was so gratifying to see kids so enthusiastic about a history competition! I heard original paper presentations, and the work and the creativity that went into the projects was impressive.

The theme this year was Turning Points in History, so students studied various events and argued that those events dramatically affected the course of history. Students who advanced in the regional competition will go on to compete at the state level in Phoenix in April. The final nationwide competition takes place in June in Washington, D.C.

An article featuring a past National History Day from the ephemera file on the Arizona Historical Society.

An article featuring a past National History Day from the ephemera file on the Arizona Historical Society.

NHD is a wonderful opportunity to expose young people to the archives. As easy as it can be to find information online, this is a good reminder for some – and first exposure for others – that there are also great resources at their fingertips in the local archives. Students learn the difference between primary and secondary sources and are required to utilize primary documents in their projects. In addition to learning about research methods, students also develop writing, public speaking, and critical thinking skills.
I’m already looking forward to September when a new batch of students come into our library and archives to start their projects for next year’s competition!
If you’re interested in learning more about National History Day, or want to know how you can get involved in your local competition, visit the National History Day website.
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