Monday, November 21, 2011

National History Day in Montana, 2011-12

The Montana Historical Society is very pleased to be a cosponsor of National History Day (NHD) in Montana.

Spearheaded by our friends at MSU-Billings, NHD is a competition open to students grades 6-12. Students are challenged to research a historical topic of their choice related to an annual theme (this year’s theme is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History”). They use their research to produce a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website.

Students then present their projects at competitions at the school, regional, state and national levels. In Montana, students may compete at the state competition without competing in a regional or classroom competition first, but participating in a classroom or regional competition—or both—is highly recommended, so students have a chance to revise their projects based on feedback from the judges before coming to state.

Across the country, over half a million students participate in NHD annually, and the program is excellent tool for helping students develop research skills, the ability to analyze, and a deeper understanding of the importance of history. Montana schools’ participation in National History Day has grown markedly over the last few years due to the determined efforts of Tom Rust (state coordinator) and Michael Scarlett (assistant state coordinator).

This year, there will be two regional competitions—one in Billings (likely March 17, but exact date to be confirmed) and one at Travelers Rest State Park in Lolo (March 31)—as well as many school and classroom competitions. The Montana Historical Society will be hosting the statewide competition in Helena on April 21, 2012. Winners of the statewide competition will be eligible to participate in the national competition in Washington, D.C.


More information on National History Day is available through the Society’s website. This page provides links to state and national NHD pages as well as ideas for Montana topics that fit this year’s team, from “Chief Plenty Coups of the Crow” to the “Missoula Free Speech Fight of 1909.” In addition to suggesting topics, historians at the Society have provided preliminary bibliographies to get students started on their research.

In addition, Tom Rust, Michael Scarlett, and their staff are happy to lend personal assistance to teachers looking for help integrating National History Day into their curriculum, who have questions about how to set up a classroom competition, or just want more information about the program. You can find their contact information here.  

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