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National History Day: Now virtual and gloriously open

This year, National History Day is open as a virtual showcase. The thoughtful project-based research of students around the country is up for display and for study and for inspiration.

The 2020 NHD theme was Breaking Barriers in History. And, this year, the celebration broke a few barriers itself.

Dr. Cathy Gorn’s announcement of the move to an online event

NHD Executive Director, Dr. Cathy Gorn, explained in an April 23 press release:

Our theme this year is Breaking Barriers in History and we recognized this as an opportunity to do something we’ve never done before. In the face of this devastating global crisis, we are using the tools available to us, specifically technology and our stalwart network of coordinators and volunteers, to support this year’s National Contest and make it happen for the students. Their perseverance and hard work will be seen and celebrated by teachers, parents, and most importantly, their peers across the country. We have to do all we can to provide a little bit of normalcy for these kids who have seen their usual school year all but vanish. Frankly, canceling was never an option.

The non-profit NHD “seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history” and has been engaging more than half a million students in original project-based inquiry each year since 1974.

This year’s contest featured 1,715 projects by 2,965 students from around the U.S. and the world. You can see lists of the 2020 winning projects here. And you can see the entire 2020 Entry List here. However, it is much easier to browse and celebrate the projects organized by their categories into their separate showcases:

While it’s a true shame that this year, for the first time ever, participating students did not travel to experience the event live, the virtual showcase exists as a treasure trove of models for future student projects.

These projects offer our own junior and senior high school students exemplars to examine and critique–inspiration for the many types of inquiry and communication formats possible. The projects also demonstrate careful, critical work on the components of research and effective communication, for instance: choosing a topic based on interests; developing critical, annotated bibliographies; finding and using primary source;, building thesis statements; presenting evidence and argument; preparing video credits; and designing websites.

Of course, all of this work is guided by NHD resources that might easily be incorporated into any history classrooms. A Teacher Page features lesson plans, scaffolds, and organizers; videos and webinars; a Virtual Professional Development page; as well as a Virtual Teacher Bag packed with additional goodies. Among the resources on the NHD YouTube channel are seven videos to designed to enhance educators’ skills for Teaching History Visually.

This year, the leaders shared a series of four Ask an NEH Expert videos focusing on skills, including Building an Argument, Validating Sources, Writing, and Editing.

Check out the Student Resources page with its lists of helpful resources, background on annotated bibliographies, advice on conducting interviews, example projects, and, of course the Conference Rule Book.

Here are some of the resources from the June virtual celebration, including remarks from a couple of supportive historians:

Virtual National History Day 2020 Contest Awards Ceremony (June 20,2020)

The 2021 NHD theme will be Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.

For more information, check out NHD’s social media presence.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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