While you have heard of the old adage, “Those who do not know history, are doomed to repeat it,” the more important reason for studying the past, is finding solutions to present day problems. Thanks to National History Day competition, several teachers from Springfield area schools have given their students the opportunity to do historical research and present their findings on topics that are of interest to them.
This Friday, on March 2, 338 students will gather for the Region VII contest, on the third floor of Plaster Student Union to showcase their projects. Students will present original research projects in one of five competition categories: documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, or websites. Each National History Day in Missouri project is unique, with students selecting research topics that range from local history to global issues. The National History Day program encourages students to present their findings their way, either as individuals or as part of a group.
Sara Zandi, academic advisor and Region VII Coordinator of History Day, has been involved with the program for little over a year. “I was fortunate enough to judge student projects last year,” she highlighted, and “was pleasantly surprised by some of the project’s extremely high quality and the students’ excellent knowledge of the source materials.”
“History Day affords middle and high school students an opportunity to participate in the study of history,” said Dr. Kathleen Kennedy, the History Department Chair. “These students work closely with their teachers to develop their own interpretations of major historical events and communicate their accounts in creative ways. We believe that such projects further invest students in their nation’s history and institutions, leading to more active and engaged citizenry. And besides that, it is really fun for all involved.”
Kelly “Simon” Matney, a high school history teacher at Nixa High School, has been participating in National History Day with his students for several years. He believes in the importance of students having a choice in their learning. “As a result, many students dig deeper and present their findings in a way that is flexible and a representation of their personality,” Matney emphasized. Moreover, he noted that students begin work on their NHD projects in August, with little triumphs and breakthroughs along the way. For Nixa High School senior Tanner Powley, History day has had a lasting impact. “The research that you conduct while creating your project allows you to learn more than you ever could in the standard classroom setting,” Powley said.
National History Day gives a historically creative outlet for students through which they can learn to become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights, and artists as they create their projects. Winners who have advanced to the state level have a chance to compete with other Missouri students to become delegates to the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest in College Park, Maryland.
A national evaluation of National History Day found students who participate:
- Outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but also in reading, science, and math;
- Are better writers who write with a purpose and a real voice while marshaling solid evidence to support their point of view;
- Are critical thinkers who digest, analyze, and synthesize information;
- Gain 21st-century skills, learning how to collaborate with team members, talk to experts, manage their time, and persevere.