National History Day (NHD) is a research competition for 6th - 12th grade students who complete primary and secondary source research based on a theme and produce a product that range from performances to papers. Students then get an opportunity present their project and are interviewed by a panel of judges. Whether you are concerned about common core, like history as inquiry, or want to incorporate more project based learning, NHD has something to offer every teacher, student, and classroom.
I am a big fan of National History Day. Obvious, I know. I recommend it to anyone who will listen. It was one of the greatest things I did as a student. It is one of the things I enjoy helping students with most each year. For more than 10 years, I have watched students mature as learners, and gain confidence from experience. It is rare to watch a student’s horizons broaden before your eyes but for my students NHD has done just that every year.
At this time of year, students are finishing up their projects and preparing for regional or state competition. After months of research, it is now time to prepare products for presentation. Like many of my students, future participants are seeking advice.
General Advice and Suggestions for Reflection:
Ask yourself: What is my thesis? Is it clearly expressed in my project and process paper? If not, fix it now. Changes are easier the earlier you make them.
As you finalize the product have fun. Your project should share what you have learned, how it relates to the theme, and how fascinating you find it. People will respond to your interest in the subject.
Double check the rules. It will reassure you that you are on the right track.
Start the bibliography now if you haven’t already. It is going to take your longer than you think it will.
Use bibliographic annotations to your advantage. They should be short but informative. Ask yourself what is it I need to tell someone else so they understand how useful a resource was.
Have someone else read your process paper. You should be able to answer yes to the questions below.
Does it explain your thesis?
Are the explanations of your decisions based on history?
Print an extra copy of your process paper and bibliography. You might need it.
Here are a few places to get advice:
National History Day has conducted and archive google hangouts in conjunction with the Smithsonian, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Newseum about each type of project. Take the time to watch the hangout and learn more about how to perfect your project from experts.
Lagrange College has been working to help teachers and students with participation in National History Day for several years. One of the unique resources they have to offer are the notes from each of the NHD google hangouts that provide you with summaries of each categories hangout.
Here you can get advice from a NHD student veteran. Let students see what one of their peers would say to them.
Check out the advice and podcast Smithsonian’s History Explorer has to offer. Here more about research or take advantage of the chance to search available collections.