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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Speaking of Conflict and Compromise...

If your school district isn't engaging in National History Day in at least one 6-12 history class, I think you should think again, especially since the folks running NHD have made it easier than ever to participate this year.

National History Day is at the most basic level a "science fair for history students." The project-based, standards-aligned curriculum that has students grade 6-12 investigate a historical topic related to the annual theme, by conducting primary and secondary research. After they have worked to analyze and interpret their sources, and have drawn a conclusion about the significance of their topics, students participate in a contest, where they present their work in one of five ways: as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a website. (You can narrow topic options and project options to fit your curriculum.) 

This year the theme is Conflict and Compromise in History. Students can choose any topic that fits this theme from any period of time or place. We, of course, think they should choose a Montana topic. And there are a lot of them! How about a project on the 1896 anti-Chinese Boycott in Butte? Or on Elouise Cobell: The Blackfeet Banker Who Took on the Federal Government? Or on Montana's World War II Conscientious Objector Camps? We've compiled preliminary bibliographies on these and other Montana topics to get your students started. We are also sponsoring a $1,000 travel scholarship, to be awarded to the creator or creators of the best Montana history project that is eligible to advance to the national contest. This is in addition to the $500 cash award for best use of digital newspapers in any project on any topic. (More information on both prizes here.)

Obviously, schools can use the NHD curriculum without having their students compete. But competition can be a great motivator and many students love it. (I recommend assigning the entire class the research project, allowing the competition to be an option.) This year, Montana NHD is sponsoring TWO regional contests before the April 7 Bozeman state contest: one in Missoula (March 3) and one in Billings (March 10). All students are encouraged (but not required) to bring their project to a regional contest to get feedback before coming to state. 

The opportunity for revision is one of my favorite things about NHD. I also love how it gets students researching, thinking, and writing like historians. I like the fact that, within parameters set by their teachers, students get to choose topics that interest them. Finally, I like that this long-standing program offers a considerable number of resources to support teachers integrating what is, in essence, a major research project into their curriculum. In addition to these online resources, Montana's NHD coordinator Michael Herdina is happy to walk you through the process. And, if your students are researching a Montana history project, I'm happy to provide guidance as well.  Intrigued but need more details? Drop Michael an email--he's happy to help.

P.S. Don't forget to check out our Veterans Day resources.

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