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A Reintroduction to National History Day (in Indiana)

February 26, 2013

In her call for improving history education in the US, Cathy
Gorn, executive director of National History Day argues, The media, policy
makers, and pundits are quick to point out the negative and report on what is
not working. But where are the discussions on the demand for evidence-based,
wide-ranging, effective, innovative approaches to teaching history??[1]

Indeed, just as National History Day has been around since
the 1970s, it has withstood the test of time and continues to serve as a
valuable program for teachers and students across the nation, including more
than 4,000 in Indiana. Here is why:

This spring, hundreds of those sixth- through 12th-grade
students, teachers and families will gather on collegecampuses around the
state to take part in the National History Day in Indiana program. Local
district contests will take place at St. Mary?s College in Notre Dame on
February 23, IUPUI in Indianapolis on March 9 and Brown County High School in
Nashville on April 6. Finalists from each contest will advance to the State
Contest at Marian University in Indianapolis on April 27, where state winners
will advance to the national contest in June.

National History Day students work in groups or as
individuals with an annual theme on a topic of their choosing, whether it is
ancient or modern, local, state, national or world history. This year?s theme
is Turning Points in History: People,
Ideas, Events
. Students will present projects in the form of exhibits,
documentaries, websites, papers and performances at each contest.

Through creating theseprojects, NHDI students will conduct
primary and secondary research,analyzeinformation and buildprojectsreflecting their interpretations of history, and then defend theirworkthrough
interviews with professionals. Students have the opportunitytostudy a topic
of their choice, work with a medium of interest to them and practice and
develop important 21st Century Learning skills through teamwork,
academic research and analysis, time management and interviews.

NHD State Judging

National History Day has been endorsed by several national
professional organizations including the American Association for State and
Local History, Organization of American Historians and the National Council for
the Social Studies. Arguing the importance of historical literacy for the
modern job market, Norm Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin
even endorsed NHD, stating that the skills developed with History Day are
skills needed across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.?[2]

Because there are so many options with History Day, students
who traditionally struggle in social studies and other classes often excel with NHD. Further, studies have shown that participating students perform better in
social studies and other classes, on standardized tests and are better writers
than their non-participating peers. The same students also show improved
interest in academic subjects which may wane in high school.[3]

So if you are tired of hearing in the media about what doesn?t work in education, come be a
part of what really does. Whether you are a teacher, student, history or
education professional or just a history buff, we encourage you to get
involved with this program. Teachers can tailor the program to meet the needs
of their students, classroom, or history club and NHDI relies heavily on
volunteer judges for contests.

National History Day in Indiana is sponsored by the Indiana
Historical Society. For more information about the program, visit
or call (317) 233-9559.

NHD State Awards

This article appeared in the winter ICSS Viewpoints Newsletter.

Cathy Gorn, National History Day Works,? OAH
Magazine of History
26, no. 3 (2012): 9-12.

Norm Augustine, The Education Our Economy Needs,? Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2011.

[3] National History Day Works: National Program


Matt Durrett is coordinator, National History Day in Indiana. Usually laconic and reserved, he has recently acquired the nickname ÒThe Quiet StormÓ around the office for his rare yet tempest-like outbursts.

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