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History Immersion, Not Just for the History Buffs

National History Day

Every year in the state of Colorado alone, 15,000 students participate in the National History Day competition. History Day is a national competition that is dedicated to teaching students history through an intensive study of specific historical events. The organization strives to illuminate history for students in middle school and high school by presenting an annual theme and the task of creating a project to present the yearlong study of an idea, event, or person from the past. Through work and a precise following of many steps, students will be able to develop an exceptional project that could even win some awards at the end of the school year.

In the fall, History Day students are presented with the annual theme. The theme for the 2013-14 school year is "Rights and Responsibility" in history; all projects presented in the coming year will relate to this theme. Once the theme has been established in the classroom, students must begin to brainstorm ideas. Mr. Ed Glassman, a History Day teacher at Denver School of the Arts, coaches that most topics can be tweaked in order to fit the yearly theme, and students are encouraged to consider areas of interest and then adjust these to fit the theme. The final step before production of a History Day project can begin is to select the category; projects may be submitted into five different competition areas: Papers, Websites, Performances, Display Boards, and Documentaries. Students must also decide whether they would like to work in a group or on their own.

Once a topic and medium have been selected, the actual process may begin. Research must continue in order to collect enough information to create a project. Student must then put together the actual presentation. The district level of competition is next, happening in early to mid-April. Students who perform well at the district level and place 1st, 2nd or 3rd in their category qualify for state, happening on May 3, 2014. Students placing in 1st or 2nd place qualify for nationals at the University of Maryland in June.

Regardless of the outcome, students should be proud of the work they have completed. If the process has been done right, an exceptional project has been created. History Day has had an impact on student learning and student Molly Brogden says that “History Day has greatly increased my love for history and has been a wonderful experience for me.”

If students don't wish to compete but are still interested in the idea, the district, state and national competitions are open for public viewing. Attending one of these competitions is a great way to see what students have learned.