National History Day

I purposefully chose not to display any affiliate links in this post. I did not want to detract from the work of these students. PLEASE click through to see some wonderful examples of what these young people have produced. I was moved to tears more than once. And a simple Youtube search for “National History Day” will provide many hours of educational entertainment.

Did you know there is a National History Day? Neither did I. But I can’t say I’m surprised. It seems like there’s a special day for everything else.

So what is National History Day? Ironically, it’s not an actual date. It’s a non-profit organization out of College Park, MD “which offers year-long academic programs to encourage school aged children in grades 6-12 to conduct original research into topics of their choosing”.*

This research culminates into a project which is then entered into competitions at the local and affiliate levels and potentially on to the national level.

Students can utilize various contemporary methods of expressing their work through such media as web design and film-making. Or they can write plays, poems, and papers or express their research through art and photography.

The concept behind this project-based learning is that the students will develop critical thinking, research and writing skills, as well as self-confidence through public speaking.

The research done by these young people, in many instances, has gone on to produce some life-changing events.

       “Sometimes, NHD students even change the course of history. The court-martial of World War II Navy Captain Charles McVay was overturned as a result of the research conducted by an NHD student, Hunter Scott, who became a Navy helicopter pilot. Four NHD students from Kansas City, KS, discovered the forgotten story of Irena Sendler, a Holocaust heroine who saved the lives of 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. As a result of their work, the impoverished and overlooked Sendler was recognized, memorialized, and had a trust fund established to care for her until her death.

And three 16-year-old NHD students in Illinois who produced a group documentary on the Mississippi Burning case, the murder of three Civil Rights workers in 1964, led the U.S. Congress to pass a bipartisan resolution calling on federal prosecutors to reopen the high profile case. Because of these students’ exhaustive research – reviewing more than 2,000 documents and conducting dozens of interviews – more than 40 years later, in 2005, the FBI’s original prime suspect, Edgar Ray Killen was finally arrested, tried, and convicted of murdering James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman.” *

Today, every state and several districts are active affiliates and participate in these year-long learning adventures.

But how did National History Day get it’s start? Back in 1974, a history professor by the name of David Van Tassel became worried about the deterioration of the education system and the lack of support for the humanities, history in particular. It also concerned him that the curriculum being taught was “by rote”. He set out to change that and began a competition to urge his students to start studying the past.

Do you have a student who loves history? Want to teach your child dedication, persistence, patience, logic, reason and ethics? Registration is currently open until May 19, 2015.

~ Goodwife Abigail

*All quotes are taken directly from the National History Day website.


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