Have you ever heard of National History Day (NHD)? Let me tell you about my past experience with it as I reference my three sons. Then, I will elaborate on the experience I had with it today at our regional competition.
One Website –
that progressed from school to regionals and on to the State competition.
One Paper –
that did the same.
Two Group Performances –
with handmade sets, costuming, & scripts, going on to State, too.
Three Boys –
who created NHD projects in 8th grade.
Four Projects –
One for each student &
another for the student who elected to do it again in 10th grade.
Four Visits to State –
All four projects selected at the regional competition to go on to State.
One Visit to Nationals – Seven Years Ago
by the paper-writing introvert who became a Thespian and played multiple roles.
Nine Years Gone By –
since our family first became involved in National History Day.
One Day of Judging – Today!
As you can see, our family has a long history of involvement with National History Day. As students in our school district, 8th graders are required to choose a topic and relate it to the theme set forth each year by the organizers of National History Day. This year I was asked if I had any interest in being a judge by a friend of the local regional coordinator for NHD. I did not need much time to think about it. Our boys had wonderful learning experiences in creating their NHD projects, and they had all experienced success. I responded that I would be pleased to serve. I dutifully went to the training session for judges a few weeks ago. It was not anything I hadn’t expected. I knew NHD wanted to provide positive experiences for those in attendance. I knew how I should talk to the students, being positive yet offering well crafted constructive criticism, especially for those who might go on to the State competition in May.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with NHD projects, the students begin work by researching potential topics in the fall, trying to relate a topic of interest to the theme. By this time of year, some students have already spent five months preparing for first their local competition at the school sites and today’s regional competition. From here on out, it gets tougher and tougher. State NHD is highly competitive and Nationals are a very serious competition for only the best. The student work that must be undertaken to get there is above and beyond what one would normally expect of junior high and young high school students. In other words, it is a phenomenal learning experience.
I found, despite my personal history as a parent of highly successful NHD students, I was nervous last night and this morning prior to the student regional competition at one of our local universities. I knew I was not as nervous as the students, however. So much time and effort had been put into their projects. The judging process is tough. Today, I found that it is tough on everyone – judges included. I feel brain-dead. Six hours of watching what I was saying, how I was saying it, asking the “right” questions, listening intently to answers, writing up comments on their evaluation sheets again with just the right amounts of praise and constructive criticism. For a person that over thinks nearly every little thing, I did so much more of it today.
Today, I gave back to a program that has been a positive influence in my students’ academic lives. It is a valuable task to work on a project long-term, tweak it over and over, become competent in academic documentation, and conversation. I was happy to contribute my time to such a program.
Will I do it again? I am not so sure. But, I’m glad I did, today. Today, I gave back to a program that gave to us, to my boys. Thank you, National History Day.