Wisconsin Historical Society

National History Day - Volunteers

 

WHY VOLUNTEER?

Do you like history? Do you enjoy working with kids? National History Day in Wisconsin is gearing up for a fantastic contest season, but we can’t do it without your help! We are looking for room monitors with friendly dispositions and judges with diverse professional experiences, different background knowledge, and a passion for history to give students the best feedback.

Each year through National History Day, thousands of middle and high school students present their work at contests. Students select and research a topic connected to a yearly theme. They then create an exhibit, documentary, research paper, website, or performance.

Judges view between five and eight projects. An evaluation form is provided prompting judges to look for balanced research, context, and an argument. The best part of judging is asking the students about their projects—how did they choose the topic, what did they find most surprising, etc. The excitement and energy of these young history lovers reaffirms our own passion for the past. Contact us to learn more!

NHD JUDGE - Video

Prepare To Judge

In order to facilitate the best NHD event possible, we have created a guide of how to approach each project and the students presenting them. General guidelines can be found in the NHD Judge Process Guide. Specific instructions on project types are listed below.

Judging instructions for:

Helpful Guides and Instructions for Volunteers:

The main goal for judges is to keep students excited about their history and their work. Remember to smile and be encouraging. Not every student will be a future historian, but we want them all to be historical enthusiasts! What to know about judging if you are a:

Non-Historian

  • You do not need to know much about what the student researched. No one is an expert on all of the topics you will see.
  • Focus on the thesis statement, support of that thesis statement and their research.
    • What is a thesis statement? A couple of sentences and argument on what the project is about. A strong thesis is a roadmap for the project. Everything included in the project should support what is said in the thesis.
    • Analyze the bibliography by looking for primary sources that are not just newspapers and secondary sources that are not just websites. Balanced research also means they tried to find sources looking at the subject from various perspectives.

Historian

  • Look for the effort. This will not be and is not meant to be the most comprehensive work on the subject.
  • Judge the project the student is presenting, not what you wish the project could be.
  • If you are an expert in “X” be careful to judge a project on “X” as fairly as the other projects you know less about.

College Student

  • Take your time. We know you juggle a lot of responsibilities but make sure to give the student the kind of written feedback you would like on your work. Without written comments, our competitors don’t know what they did well or what they could improve.
  • Focus on the thesis statement, support of that thesis statement, and the research.

Volunteer Sign Up

Top 5 things you need to know for judging

Exhibits

  • Glitz and glamour make up 0% of judging.
  • Does the theme stand out to you? Make sure it does!
  • Can you easily identify the thesis, evidence, and significance in history?
  • Does each visual/image/photo include the required credit?
  • Watch for word count—no more than 500!

Website

  • Is there a solid connection to the theme? There should be!
  • Does the thesis support the evidence and vice versa?
  • Watch out for word count—no more than 1,200 words.
  • Does the student give credit for each visual?
  • No links out to external websites, such as an archives or a museum. No more than 4 minutes of embedded media (songs, film clips).

Documentary

  • Can you spot the theme throughout the presentation?
  • Does the evidence support the thesis?
  • Be sure the project goes beyond explaining facts, listen for historical analysis.
  • The quality of the technology is not important, focus on the research!
  • Is there a conclusion, followed by required (brief) credits?

Performance

  • Does the theme stand out to you? It should!
  • Can you find the thesis, does it hold up?
  • Listen for historical analysis, not scriptwriting.
  • Pay attention to the research student(s) incorporate.
  • Props and acting experience are not requirements for a winning performance!

Papers

  • Does the theme stand out to you?
  • Does the thesis hold throughout the paper?
  • Keep an eye out for citations.
  • Word count must be between 1,500 - 2,500.
  • Does the student communicate their argument well?

Have Questions?

Get information and advice from our helpful staff! Get answers to commonly asked questions about National History Day in Wisconsin.

Frequently Asked Questions