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What the Heck is History Day … and What Day Is It?

Whenever I am traveling around the state talking with teachers and students about National History Day in Indiana, toward the end of our conversations I am almost always asked, “OK, so what day is it?”

The official answer was always “It’s not just a day, it’s an experience.” The truth is, while that answer is as correct as it is cliché, one cannot accurately explain National History Day in a simple blog post like this one. (It’s actually not just one day, but several competition days, which culminate in a State Contest where finalists represent the state of Indiana at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in Washington, D.C. every year in June.) But as I thought about what I would say in my first blog post I wondered, “How else could History Day easily be explained?”

Well, in the past two weeks alone I have heard, “If people would just pay attention to things like this, they would not have such a low opinion of our youth!” from a retired teacher turned History Day judge and “I never thought education and school would be, you know … fun” from a middle school student who just showed his documentary to a panel of respected historians and educators. Over the weekend a parent asked, "Why don't more people do this?" adding, "My kids have never been this interested in school until History Day."

If you asked me, I would tell you it is a project-based learning program with a rubric and theme designed to build students’ thesis development, research, teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills. That students practice college-level research without even knowing it, guided by the rules, and that the program can match any Social Studies and Language Arts standard, among many others, in the book. I might suggest becoming a fan on Facebook or following us on Twitter, or, better yet, judging for a competition. I might even cite a study or two which show that students develop research and critical thinking skills, enjoy doing it, and have an increased interest in history and project building as a result of History Day.

Don’t take it from me though; see what Indiana teachers – the real experts – have to say about the program in the new National History Day in Indiana video!

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