At National History Day is students from across the nation and around the world come together united by their love of history. In their work, they display that passion through many modes of creative expression. I was emotionally uplifted by being around so many talented and enthusiastic young historians for the last several days.
The journey to National History Day began last fall or summer, when the kids were introduced to the NHD theme, which was “Taking a Stand in History” this year. The kids that made it to NHD had been working on these projects for at least 6 months. That long time span is a large part about what makes History Day so powerful.
Most school projects do not extend beyond a 6 or 9 week grading period and many are crammed into one or two weeks. History Day students have the entire first semester of school before sharing their products at their District History day which is usually in January. Those students advancing to the regional, state and national competitions must do more research, revise they work, incorporating feedback and new information at each stage. It’s a tremendously rigorous and meaningful process.
The initial presentation of the NHD Theme represents the “Open” stage of Inquiry, because the NHD theme is general and open to interpretation, while adaptable to nearly every stage of history in any geographic region. For more information about the NHD Theme, see the competition website.
In the teacher workshops at NHD I heard from Mr. History himself, Tim Hooglund of the Minnesota State History Museum. He recommends that students not even begin the creation of their product until Thanksgiving at which point the Thesis statement is approved by the teacher and the students commit to a certain type of creative product (Website, Film, research paper, Exhibit or Dramatic Performance). This leaves at least 10 weeks for students to engage with the Immerse, Explore, Identify and Gather stages of Inquiry.
After the thesis statement is approved the Create stage begins. This is another period of a month or longer, prior to the Share and Evaluate components which happen at the District level History Day.
During this past year, my first as History Day coordinator, I largely adhered to the timeline. However, I am currently reflecting on what I could have done if I paid more meaningful attention to the GID process in guiding my teaching, particularly in the time between Open and Create. In the next post, I will discuss the methods I used for guiding the students’ process and discuss what I will do differently next year.
Highland Park High School