National History Day (NHD) makes history come alive for students by engaging them in the discovery of the historical, cultural, and social experiences of the past. NHD is an outstanding example of project-based and inquiry-based learning that can be integrated into any social studies, history, or humanities classroom. source: nationalhistoryday.org
Many years ago, our children attended Bay Farm Elementary School in Alameda, California. We were one of the first 250 families to open this new school that featured year-round education instead of a traditional calendar. The school has since reverted to a traditional schedule due to issues with trying to coordinate two different schedules in the same school district. Since my wife still substitute teaches at the school, I was asked to be one of the judges for NHD.
This is Bay Farm's first year participating in NHD. A teacher, Nancy Ely, who championed NHD at another school transferred to Bay Farm this year. She brought it with her! At her former school, she had only a few entrants. Though it was Bay Farm's inaugural year. there were 80 projects — the most of any elementary school in Alameda county. That speaks volumes about the students, parents, and staff at Bay Farm Elementary. (Forget the fact that they know a good judge when they see one.)
As part of NHD, students could do one of the following:
- research paper
- dramatic re-enactment of a historic event
- documentary film
Bay Farm is participating in the junior division which means that projects submitted by 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students are judged together rather than by grade level. Our teacher who provided the judging instruction noted "Just because the 6th graders are small and cute doesn't get them any more points on their projects." Based on the judging, Bay Farm will select 12 projects that will advance to the county level. From there, county winners can advance to the state level, and state winners will be judged nationally in Washington, D.C. NHD is a BFD.
This year's NHD theme is leadership and the legacy of history that these leaders created. I was among some judges who looked at 4 websites.
Our process was to look at each website, interview the students about their site (to get them to talk, think on their feet, and answer ad hoc questions), and then complete a rubric where we scored the site against pre-defined criteria specific to NHD. Our scale was:
- 0 = missing
- 1 = needs improvement
- 3 = good
- 5 = excellent
- 7 = superior
Each site had something unique to offer.
The teachers then collected all of the judges' rubrics, tabulated the results, and announced the winners that will move on. All of the projects were quite impressive. The students had been working on them since October, and it showed. Autodesk gives employees up to 4 hours per month to help out at schools. It was an honor to participate in such a worthy endeavor.
Now that Bay Farm has decided on its winners, the county judging will take place at the Oakland Museum on Saturday, March 14, between noon and 3:00 pm. Judges will meet between 3:00 pm and 3:30 pm to decide on the winners with an award ceremony beginning around 3:45 pm. This is open to the public.
If your school wants to get in on the action next year, ask your child's history teacher to check out nationalhistoryday.org. All the cool kids are doing it.
"I wish that I could be like the cool kids
'Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids"
— Echosmith, "Cool Kids," 2014.
History is alive in the lab.