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From the News column in the September 2001 Perspectives

The Past Comes Alive for NHD Participants

AHA Staff, September 2001

In the most recent National History Day program, 700,000 students and 40,000 teachers participated. The 2001 NHD competition theme, "Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas," led many students to new discoveries about their own communities and the world. The national-level competitions were held over four exciting and fun-filled days in June on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park. Many students went back home triumphantly with their prizes, but truly, all the students who participated in the program were winners because they gained valuable insights and skills that will be beneficial throughout their lives.

The national competition judges also immensely enjoyed their work because they were evaluating projects and performances produced by dedicated students who took fascinatingly innovative looks at the past, often ferreting out obscure information buried in archival documents or in people's memories. For example, by analyzing correspondence from David Kalakaua, the last Hawaiian King, and from Thomas Edison, students from Hawaii argued that volcanoes might be the answer to America's electricity crises. Others examined the "frontier" in such topics as race relations, atomic bombs, women's work, Recombinant DNA, and cloning. Anxious as the competitors inevitably were, they demonstrated an enormous enthusiasm for history.

National History Day is a yearlong nonprofit program in which children in grades 6–12 research and create historical projects related to a broad annual theme, culminating in an annual national contest. This academic adventure provides teachers with an innovative teaching tool and fosters students' enthusiasm for learning. Through participation in the NHD program, students not only develop an appreciation of their heritage, but essential life skills that will help them succeed in school, college, and the workplace.

This coming school year, more than half a million students in grades 6 through 12 across the nation will again embark on a historical adventure to examine topics related to the 2001–2002 National History Day competition theme, "Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History."

University and college history departments are encouraged to become involved in this exciting program. "More than ever before, academic historians and departments of history in colleges and universities have a growing stake in promoting a broader understanding of the value of historical research and study of the past. In my experience as a department chair, I discovered there is no better form of public outreach than participation in National History Day," said Sara M. Evans, former department chair at the University of Minnesota. Professors and graduate students are needed to serve as judges at National History Day contests across the country.

For details about the National History Day visit its web site at http://www.nationalhistoryday.org.

—Based on a report from Mark Robinson of the NHD.