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On the Front Lines at History Day

Matt Durrett, IHS’s National History Day in Indiana state coordinator, visits students at Hauser High School in Hope to help them plan their projects.

Matt Durrett, the National History Day in Indiana state coordinator, has been actively involved with Indiana students, traveling the state and introducing National History Day at student workshops.

As an IHS intern, contest judge, NHDI program assistant and now as the NHDI state coordinator, Matt has had the chance to see some fantastic student projects. “I am always amazed at the level of work students are able to accomplish,” he says.

One of Matt’s goals is to get students excited about history and to appreciate it. “It’s a great way to get them to pick something that they are interested in rather than what they have always been told is interesting,” Matt says. “This isn’t their grandfather’s history class, but it might be their grandfather’s history.” Although NHD rulebooks provide guidance and project ideas, it’s the program’s student-centered approach that is most appealing.

“While students may be restricted to certain topics by their teachers or classroom studies, History Day allows them to explore their own passions and interests,” Matt says. Before long, students are doing research and analysis on their own – and finding sources to uncover interesting clues about the past. History Day students often have a strong emotional connection to their topics. Projects have included stories of family members or significant community events.

“When students express their passions with a history project, conduct research and receive recognition from respected community members, we know that valuable learning has occurred on multiple levels,” Matt says.