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All teachers search for that moment when what you do in the classroom raises administrators' eyebrows, students' hopes, and the goosebumps on our own skin. These pivotal moments in our interconnected lives show us - emotionally - that our job is more than just worksheets and pencil sharpeners; it's changing lives.
One of the most remarkable changes I've seen come into place has been through the National History Day program. Since so many people, including social studies teachers, don't know much about it, this article will hopefully spell out some of what it is and what it isn't.
What Is National History Day?
First and foremost, NHD is research-driven, project based learning. In the era of Common Core, the focus on higher-level thinking, and the differentiated instruction models, there isn't much more that meets the requirements as this project. Students choose their own teams or choose to work on their own. They then decide upon their topic - on anything or anyone in history - and then build their research from there.
Students then decide how they're going to present their project.
- They can create an exhibit, which is pretty much like a museum display on their topic and probably the most popular category. Click on the links to see the National winners in the individual exhibit for the junior (grades 7-8) (topic - Hartford Circus Fire) and senior (9-12) (topic - Truman's Exec. Order to integrate the military) categories.
- Students can also create a website, which is the newest and the fastest growing category. Here students can use their tech skills to best display their findings. Teachers may even use the National winners in senior group (World War II code) and senior individual (Election of 1860) categories in a webquest.
- Tech skills can also be used in creating a documentary video. The winners for junior individual (American Indian Schools) and senior group (Nikola Tesla) categories can be viewed by clicking on the corresponding links.
- For the actor(s) in class, there's a performance category. It's fun to watch kids play the roles of radio announcers (junior group winners) and Abraham Lincoln (senior individual winner) for the judges.
- Students can choose to work in groups or individually for all but our last category, the research paper (which is conducted by one individual on their own). Here the student can combine his/her writing abilities with their research. Click to read the winners' papers in the senior (The Great Railroad Strike of 1877) and junior (The Marshall Plan) categories.
How Can I Get Started?
You may want to begin with NHD's website (http://www.nhd.org/), but feel free to visit to my teacher webpage to beg, borrow, and steal anything you'd like. On there are due dates, checklists, and more information about National History Day than you could ever want. When your students start speaking about their topic like well-established history professors, you'll be seeing the eyebrows rise, the students hopes and self-confidence inflate, and the goosebumps pop up on your own skin.