Frequently Asked Questions About National
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What is National History Day?
National History Day is an exciting academic enrichment program
that helps students learn about historical issues, ideas, people,
and events. This yearlong academic adventure fosters students'
enthusiasm for learning and their love for history. National
History Day teaches the skills individuals need for a successful
future. The program's three central elements develop participants'
- Complete extensive research;
- Critically analyze and develop historical conclusions about
information they have discovered in a variety of sources;
- Present and defend their interpretations in a critical,
yet creative forum.
or collaboratively in groups of two to five, students produce
historical documentaries, exhibits, dramatic performances, websites,
and research papers based on an annual theme. Students in 6th
through 12th grade may choose to participate in the competition
cycle by presenting their research at a series of local, regional,
state, and national events.
If students choose to participate in the event cycle, their
work is evaluated at different stages by historians, educators,
and professionals in related fields. Award-winning entries at
the National History Day in Wisconsin state event held in late
April/early May are then eligible to participate in the NHD
national contest held in June in Washington, D.C.
What is the theme for this year's
Each year, National History Day selects a theme to guide student
research. The theme is broad enough to allow students to research
a variety of topics, yet engaging enough to inspire student
interest. Student topics must fit the annual theme. Students
should think about how their topic connects to the annual theme
as a central component of their project. Learn more about the
are the contest categories?
Students may participate in either the junior division (grades
6-8) or senior division (grades 9-12). Students may participate
as individuals or in groups of two to five. There are five contest
categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, and website.
Learn more about each of these
is the history of History Day?
NHD began as a small, local competition in Cleveland, Ohio,
in 1974, when the department of history at Case Western Reserve
University created a program to bolster the teaching and learning
of history in schools. History Day expanded throughout Ohio
and nearby states before becoming a national program in 1980.
With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities,
the program grew during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, NHD moved
its office to the Washington, D.C., area. While the competition
remains at the core of the program, NHD is now a year-long academic
program, serving teachers with curriculum materials, seminars,
and professional development workshops, and offering summer
internships for students. The Wisconsin Historical Society became
the sponsoring institution for the program in our state in 2001.
is my regional coordinator?
Regional assignments are based on the county in which the school
is located. Take a look at our Regional
Coordinator Contact List for your school’s assignment.
is the state coordinator?
View contact information for the state coordinator on
do I contact for more information?
Contact either the state office
or your regional coordinator.
In addition to answering questions ourselves, we can also direct
you to experienced teachers in the state who are able to provide
advice based on their own classroom experiences.
can I find research resources?
History Day students need to find a variety of sources to help
them understand the past, including primary and secondary sources.
Both of these types of sources are important to a good History
Day project and there are many different places that they can
begin looking for them. Students often begin in their school
library, but they don’t stop there! Many will venture
to local libraries, nearby university or college libraries,
archives, museums, and more.
Many History Day students spend at least some of their research
time – but not all! – online. While only a small
fraction of all the research material that exists is available
online, there is an ever increasing amount of primary sources
that you can find on the web. Check
out some of the resources past National History Day students
have found useful.
Teacher may find it especially useful to team up with their
school librarian, especially during the research part of the
History Day process. In addition to resources at the school,
fieldtrips to local libraries or nearby university or college
libraries, or the Wisconsin Historical
Society have proven successful in the past.
and where are the NHD contests?
The National History
Day program includes a progressive contest cycle open to students
in grades 6-12.
- School/Local Events: Some schools have a local event prior
to the regional event. Schools hold events to recognize the
achievements of all participating students. School events
also serve as a way to narrow down the number of students
a school can send to a regional competition, if applicable.
These events are usually held in February. Learn
more about hosting a school event.
- Regional History Day Events: The seven regional events
in Wisconsin are held in March and April. All events take
place on a University of Wisconsin campus or school sites.
Regional events are assigned based on county. Find
out more about event dates and locations.
- State Event: The state event is held at the Wisconsin Historical
Society and the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus.
The state event is held in late April/early May.
- National Contest: The national contest is held each June
at the University of Maryland in College Park, near Washington,
D.C. It is usually held the second week in June.
do I register to participate in National History Day?
In Wisconsin, there is no official deadline for you to notify
us that you intend to participate in NHD until your students
register for a regional competition. Registration for regional
events is generally due two to three weeks before the event.
It’s always a good idea, however, to notify the state
office or your regional coordinator as soon as you know you
are participating. They will make sure you are on the mailing
list for event materials and will be happy to have the advance
notification for event planning.
can students and teachers participate in the program?
Students choose a topic related to NHD's annual theme, conduct
extensive research over the course of the school year, and create
performances, documentaries, papers, exhibits, and web sites
that they enter in contests at the school, district, state,
and national levels. There are two divisions of competition:
junior (grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12).
- Request curriculum materials
from NHD in Wisconsin. You will get a variety of materials
that will help you to learn about the program and begin integrating
NHD into your curriculum, from start to finish.
- Check out one of our workshops
for educators. Making History Day Happen workshops are
a perfect opportunity for interested teachers to learn more
about the program and discuss implementation ideas. OR
Contact us with questions about the program. The staff at
the state office and regional coordinators form a network
of support for NHD teachers and participating students. Check
out the Regional Events section
for regional event dates and contact information for regional
- Take a look at your curriculum, lessons, goals, standards,
and objectives to see how NHD might fit in. Questions to think
- What research projects are you already having your
students complete? The structure and support resources
of NHD may be the perfect way to take that project to
the next level. What skill building activities do you
already have your students complete that would feed into
the NHD project? Don’t think of NHD as something
to do in addition to regular work. Instead, think about
how it grows from the goals you already have for your
- How does NHD fit into your school’s standards
and objectives for students? The NHD program and the nature
of research bring together the language arts skills of
reading, writing, and communication with the specific
methods of historical inquiry.
- What benefits might the competition cycle and public
recognition for academic research have for your students
- Jump in and begin working with NHD in your classroom. You
can start small (with a small group or club) or with an entire
class. You can work with all five presentation categories
or limit it to just two or three. You can work with NHD as
a class project only or let your students participate in the
NHD competitive cycle, too. It’s up to you! OR
See NHD in action at one of our seven regionals or the state
event. Make sure you are on the NHD
in Wisconsin e-mail newsletter list for dates, times,
can I private, parochial, or home school students participate?
National History Day is also open to students in grades 6-12
in private, parochial, and home schools. The same rules and
participation guidelines apply to them as students in public
schools. These students will also see the same educational benefits.
The materials on this disk are the best place for these groups
of students to begin participating. For students, this means
reviewing the NHD in Wisconsin Student
For home school students
in their first year of participation, it is especially important
to read the rulebook and participation guidelines to ensure
that you have the necessary information about the program and
information about competitions. Make sure you contact your regional
coordinator and get on the mailing list with the state office.
Information about regional events is distributed electronically
through this list.
can a student be a part of NHD if their school is not currently
A student can still participate in NHD even if their school
does not currently participate in the program. Interested students
- Seek out an adviser. The adviser can be a teacher or other
adult. Ideally, students should ask a history or English teacher
at their school.
- Discuss the adviser’s role. This adviser can have
many different levels of involvement. The adviser can be heavily
involved in the project and help the student to manage deadlines,
discuss project progress, and provide feedback. On the other
hand, an adviser may just make sure the appropriate forms
are turned in for the student to participate in the competition.
Having an open discussion of these expectations at the beginning
will alleviate frustration later.
- Discuss your goals and expectations. If your adviser is
also one of your classroom teachers, it is also good to discuss
any possibilities for extra credit for your project. National
History Day projects can be a lot of work to do entirely outside
- Get on the mailing list. Make sure your adviser is on the
mailing list for NHD
in Wisconsin event information.
- Set a schedule. Review the NHD in
Wisconsin Student Guide and set a schedule for your project.
Be sure to check in with your adviser as you go through the
is the program connected to school curriculum?
The National History Day program has been designed to assist
teachers and schools in meeting several educational standards.
In Wisconsin, National History Day supports the state Model
Academic Standards for Social Studies. Participants will likely
address many of the standards,
in addition to the benefits
the program has for students and teachers.
How does the NHD competitive
Each level of the NHD competitive cycle provides students with
the opportunity to share their work with peers, professionals,
and community members as they compete for special awards and
the opportunity to advance to the next level of competition.
Students share their project and are interviewed by a panel
of judges, comprised of historians, educators, librarians, etc.
Projects are evaluated against the same criteria across categories
and competitions. Winners in each category/division will have
the opportunity to advance to the next level of competition.
Learn more about the NHD competitive
How can I help my child with
Parents, teachers, and other adults play an important support
role in the National History Day process. You can help in many
ways, while still allowing your child to have ownership over
the final project. As a general rule of thumb, adult advisers
can do things with History Day students, but not for them. See
more ideas about how you can be involved.
much does it cost to be involved in National History Day?
There are several categories of costs to keep in mind when participating
- NHD in the Classroom: There are no fees associated with
bringing the NHD program into your classroom. Classroom presentations
from WHS staff and curriculum materials are free.
- Research and Project Creation Costs: Photocopy costs, photo
printing, materials needed to create exhibit, costumes, props,
- Travel: Travel to research institutions, travel to levels
- Registration Fees: Fees for regional and state contests
are generally low (approximately $5-$10/student). Registration
for the national contest is more (approximately $95/student)
but most students reaching this level of competition will
fundraise to cover costs associated with the national contest.
participate in NHD?
For Students: National History Day gives participants
the skills needed for a successful future. History Day is unique
from other academic enrichment opportunities because of the
variety of skills it teaches. These include critical and creative
thinking, research and analysis, verbal and written communication
skills, time management, and problem-solving.
For Teachers: The National History Day program provides
teachers with an innovative tool to teach important skills in
a fun and engaging format. NHD requires students to take on
the role of a historical detective. Participants must delve
into primary sources, develop original historical conclusions,
and present their work in a creative forum. In short, National
History Day is designed to revolutionize the teaching and learning
Why participate in the competition
Participation in the NHD competition cycle is an optional component
to the program, however, many teachers choose to incorporate
these events into their History Day programs. Historians, educators,
and professionals in related fields evaluate students’
work at each stage of competition and provide encouragement
and constructive feedback. Students who proceed from one level
of competition to the next are encouraged to use this feedback
to strengthen their work.
National History Day events provide the public recognition and
community interaction that keep students motivated and intellectually
engaged. Sharing a project is the culminating activity that
makes NHD an authentic learning experience and demonstrates
to peers, parents, colleagues, and administrators real student
achievement. The evaluation process also reinforces the instruction
provided by the classroom teacher. Professionals who judge at
regional, state, and national events become part of the instructional
team. In addition, students learn not only from judges’
evaluations, but also from one another as they interact and
view one another’s entries in a positive and energetic
participation In History Day make too many demands on my time
Teachers already work long hours. It is understandable that
they would want to look closely at any new project before committing
themselves to it. Keep in mind, however, that it is possible
to participate in History Day at varying levels of intensity.
Some teachers have only a few students involved; others involve
whole classes. Still others get "hooked" on History
Day. They have many students participate and still find time
to serve on their regional steering committee that helps plan
and implement the History Day program. The degree of commitment
of these people is living testimony to the value of the program.
As you make your decision about how you wish to participate
in History Day consider the following points:
- As a social studies teacher, historical instruction is
one of your paramount responsibilities. History Day facilitates
historical instruction of the most fundamental kind. Furthermore,
because of its multi-disciplinary character, it also improves
student skills in writing, dramatic presentation, documentary
presentation, or visual imagery, depending upon which mode
the student chooses. The decision about how to present the
results of research calls into play the student's creative
- The students do the work. The teacher is an adviser, a
coach, and a facilitator. These roles can be as much as the
teacher chooses to make them.
- Even if you cannot commit a great deal of time to the program,
just getting students involved in it is worthwhile. The contest
process itself is instructive. Judges at regional, state and
national contests make valuable suggestions to contestants
on how to improve their entries. Students learn from each
other and from one another's projects. The librarians, archivists,
museum professionals and other judges become a part of the
learning experience as they give students additional guidance.
- You may be able to recruit community volunteers to help
you with your program. Parents of History Day students are
sometimes willing to donate time and energy.
- If you feel you need help with your program, experience
History Day teachers and the staff members at the Wisconsin
Historical Society are eager to help. Just call the state
coordinator and we will connect you with the right resources!
(Content adapted from
material developed by the Washington State Historical Society.)
How do I persuade
my students to participate?
Some teachers announce History Day to their classes and ask
how many would like to participate. A number of students may
show some interest and the teacher gives them the material and
hopes they will come up with something. This procedure usually
does not work. History Day is an interesting and exciting competition,
but students already have many interesting and exciting things
in their lives, and they often respond to that which is nearest
in space and time.
History Day is a coaching activity and the teacher is the coach.
Students need encouragement, deadlines, and a little prodding
to keep them on task. Many successful History Day teachers incorporate
the History Day entry into regular course work. Some make it
a class assignment. Students do not have to enter the contest
but they do have to produce an entry according to History Day
specifications. Other teachers make the History Day entry a
class option, for which students receive credit in lieu of or
in addition to other term assignments.
Successful teachers integrate history projects into their regular
curriculum and make the creation of an exhibit, performance,
documentary presentation, website, or research paper a requirement
in their social studies or language arts courses. They establish
a schedule in their classrooms, and specific dates are given
for the selection of a topic, completion of research, production
of the entry, etc. The teacher monitors the students' activity
to make sure that progress is being made. Such interest communicates
to the student that History Day is important and that he or
she should be working on their project throughout the year.
Let parents know what is going on, what History Day is all about.
They may take an interest and add their own encouragement of
the students' effort. Remember, someone--teacher or parent--must
help students, especially the younger ones, contact libraries,
museums, archives, etc., to locate materials they need in their
(Content adapted from
material developed by the Washington State Historical Society.)