Have you heard of History Day? I have, but had you asked me about it prior to late 2009, my answer would have been ‘no’. As a history enthusiast (and a museum, historic preservation, public history, archaeology, historic cemetery, etc. enthusiast) learning about History Day in grad school was sort of a let down. Why?
National History Day is a “year-long academic program focused on historical research for 6th to 12th grade students” in which students create a project centered on a theme. This year’s theme is “Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events”. Students pick a topic of their choosing that goes with this theme and create an exhibit, website, paper, documentary or performance (entering as an individual or as a group). Think Science Fairs, but for History. Awesome!
For someone finding out about it in grad school, it was disappointing to know that I had missed out on the chance to participate as a student. As students in my particular grad program, we had the chance to volunteer during our first year with registration, a door guard (everyone wants a peek at the competition), or as a time-keeper. During our second year, we had the opportunity to judge entries. I judged documentaries that year.
The following year, I found myself in Ohio, which is where History Day started in 1974. I knew I had to participate again and once again I judged documentaries, but did run-off judging for exhibitions (only two people from each category can go to Nationals, so if there are multiple judging groups, a run-off is needed for the top two projects in each group–there is also an alternate chosen for Nationals).
I had thoroughly enjoyed my History Day experiences, so this year, living in my third state in four years, it was a no-brainer that I would want to do History Day again. So I contacted those in charge of Rhode Island History Day and today I judged exhibits. I am always so impressed by the creativity of the entrants and the enthusiasm they show, not to mention the quality! To see so many of today’s young people interested in history is a wonderful thing.
There are still many states that have yet to hold their respective state competitions, so if History Day sounds like it would be a fun thing to judge, contact your state coordinator to find out how to get involved.
In future years, maybe you’ll see me in your state. It’s now a goal of mine to get to all of the state competitions…only 47 left to go (plus DC).