Welcome to the Santa Clara County National History Day Program!
is an exciting educational opportunity that encourages students to explore local, state, national, and world history. After selecting a historical topic that relates to an annual theme, students conduct extensive research by using libraries, archives, museums, and oral history interviews. They analyze and interpret their findings, draw conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, and create final projects that present their work. These projects can be entered into a series of competitions, from the local to the national level, where they are evaluated by professional historians and educators.
Specifically, National History Day – California is one of the largest state History Day competitions, takes place in 34 counties and reaches some 44,000 students each year, culminating in an annual state wide contest with nearly 1,400 participants. National History Day – California provides an enhanced History Day program, including the elementary student 2-dimensional poster display category. The elementary addition, while not a National qualifier, makes California's National History Day contest open to students in grades 4 through 12. All types of students participate in NHD; for example: public, private, parochial and home-school students; urban, suburban and rural students; English language learners, academically gifted and average students, and students with special needs.
HOW DOES HISTORY DAY WORK?
National History Day is both a way to teach history and a highly regarded academic competition. Students participate locally (at the school or school district level) to reach county or regional contests. Champion entries from these county/regional contests represent their areas at National History Day – California. Champions at the state competition in the Junior and Senior Divisions advance to National History Day held at the University of Maryland each year.
Three grade-span divisions comprise the California contest:
Elementary (grades 4 & 5)
Junior (grades 6 – 8)
Senior (grades 9 – 12)
There are two entry categories for the Elementary Division (grades 4 &5):
There are nine entry categories each for the Junior and Senior Divisions:
Individual Web site
Group Web site
Individual entries consist of one student. Group entries may have two to five students. The highest level of competition advancement for the Elementary Division is National History Day – California.
WHAT AM I REQUIRED TO DO TO PARTICIPATE IN NHD-CA?
Students choose a history topic related to NHD’s annual contest theme, conduct extensive research over the course of the school year, and create performances, documentaries, papers, exhibits, or a poster (for fourth and fifth grade students only), which they may enter in competition at the district and state level. Champion entries from grades six through twelve at the state level advance to the National History Day contest at the University of Maryland.
HOW DO I GET STARTED WITH HISTORY DAY?
First, students should find out if their school has an established History Day program. Some students participate through after school and scouting programs in addition to those who participate through their schools. Students simply need to find a teacher or trusted adult who would be willing to act as a sponsor for their projects. These “coaches” help students with time management and serve as mentors as students conduct research and create projects. Students do not need to register to participate in the program unless they plan on competing. Some schools have their own contests to determine who will move on to the regional contests. Regional registration forms are typically due in February. Contact your local county office of education for information regarding your county level contest and registration requirements. Top entries at each regional contest may move on to the state contest. Registration information for the state contest is online, and details will be given to the winners at the regional contests.
HOW MANY STUDENTS AND TEACHERS PARTICIPATE IN HISTORY DAY?
Nationwide, 700,000 students and 40,000 teachers annually participate in National History Day programs. More than 3,000 students from across the country attend the national contest (from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Schools and American Samoa). Over 35,000 students participate in NHD-California each year with nearly 1,200 competing at the state level contest in 20 entry categories across three grade-span divisions (elementary, junior, and senior).
WHEN IS NATIONAL HISTORY DAY?
Every day is National History Day! History Day is a year-long program that culminates in a national contest in June in College Park, MD. Although the annual competition gains the most notoriety, National History Day is, at its heart, a way to teach and learn history by becoming a historian. Typically, school-level contests take place in late January-early February; county/regional contests take place in early-mid March; and the state contest takes place in late April-early May. Champion entries from school-level contests advance to the county competition. This advancement cycle repeats to the contests at the state and national levels.
HOW DID NATIONAL HISTORY DAY BEGIN?
National History Day started as a small contest in Cleveland in 1974. Members of the history department at Case Western Reserve University developed the initial idea for a history contest to make teaching and learning history a fun and exciting experience. Students gathered on campus to devote one day to history. They called it “National History Day.” Although the name has remained the same, NHD has grown into a national organization with year-round programs and a week-long national contest.
CREATING AN ENTRY
Topics for History Day
Picking a topic for your History Day project is the most important first step. You must make sure that your topic fits within the annual theme, that it fits the category (exhibit, documentary, etc.) you want to pursue, and that it is narrow enough so that you can tell its whole story easily.
History Day is fun, but it's also a lot of work. You'll be working on this project for many months. It is important that you choose a topic that you are really interested in learning more about.
We encourage you to pick a person or event in history that isn't all that well known. For example, pick a locally famous person. Go to your local library or museum and find out who the important people are in your town's history. We think you will be surprised to find some great stories in your own backyard. Or, if that doesn't interest you, dig through your social studies book and find a name you don't know. There are plenty of people who made important contributions in history that no one knows about. It is most important that you choose a topic you find fascinating. Don't hesitate to look at areas you are interested in, even if they don't appear to be historic. History can be found in science, sports, transportation, and fashion. History is not all about dead presidents and treaties. Research something you want to know about!
Ask yourself several questions to determine a general subject area that you can narrow down to a more specific topic. Do you like music? Are you interested in Japanese shoguns? Do you wonder who invented the microchip or how Haydn's classical music is similar to the punk rock of the 1980s? Do you admire Japanese animation and wonder where it got its start? Everything has a history, so let your imagination fly. Then, start making lists.
Learning More and Narrowing Your TopicLet's say that you decide you are drawn to the Civil Rights movement. You start looking for information in your textbook and on the internet. There is so much information that your head starts spinning! You clearly need to narrow your topic to something you can research and create a project on in a few months. So now you head to your local library and you find a book called Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 by Juan Williams. You find out that many people were involved in the movement over several years. Also, you find that there were several focused efforts in the fight for civil rights. A couple that really interest you are, say, the Birmingham Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. When you read a little more about them, you find that the Civil Rights movement affected and involved millions of people with multiple perspectives from all across the country. OK, so you may not be as interested in the Civil Rights movement as we are. That's ok. The lesson is still an important one.While you are narrowing your topic, it is a good idea to jot down people, places or events that get your attention. Take these ideas to your History Day advisor or teacher. He or she may be able to help you focus in on your best topic. Remember, you need to find an event that fits in well with the theme, has important historical significance, and can be developed into one of the project categories.
At the state level, students have many choices regarding the type of entry that best fits their personal talents and skills as well as the resources connected with their topic. It’s important to keep in mind that every category will involve a lot of writing and research. Even the performance and documentary categories involve a great deal of planning, research, locating of primary and secondary sources and analysis.
If you like to write, the paper category is a good choice. Only individuals can compete in this category.
If you like technology, consider the web site category or the documentary category. Web sites are fun if you like working with the internet and your computer. Keep in mind that web sites require research that goes beyond the internet to libraries, archives and personal interviews just like any other category. The documentary category is challenging for competitors who have not worked with editing software. Look into what software is available at your school or if you will need to find software on your own.
The exhibit category is a great idea if you like design, or if your category has visual elements that you want to show in your topic analysis.
Take some time to explore the different types of projects (listed to the right) you can create for History Day to determine which category type would work best for your topic.
To learn more about NHD-CA rules for entries, click here.
To learn more about developing your own entry, click here.
The poster (formerly 2-Dimensional Display) is a scaled-down version of the exhibit category. It provides the opportunity for 4th and 5th grade students to get an introduction to History Day. Students can work individually or in groups of 2-5 people.
On your poster you can use quotations and your own words to share the surrounding background that relates to your topic. You should also develop a thesis statement and include evidence that supports it. Your project should show the significance of your topic in history. You can also use images of all kinds (e.g., photos, maps, art images, etc.) and meaningful captions and labels to tell your story and guide the viewer through your display.
Please note this category is available only to participants in the Elementary Division (4th & 5th grade students). The poster is a California-only category and is not included at the National History Day contest.
Constantly changing technology offers students limitless possibilities in developing media-based presentations for the documentary category. Students may create documentaries using slides, film, videos, and/or computers. Whatever presentation format is chosen, students must be able to operate all equipment during production and at each level of competition.
Important: The most important aspect of any entry is its historical quality. Students should not get so caught up in the production of a documentary that they lose sight of the importance of the historical quality. Judges are not looking for glitzy productions; rather, they are looking for solid research and a thorough analysis of the chosen topic.
Although computer based presentations are now more prevalent, slide presentations are still an effective tool. Slides can be either purchased or produced by students. The key to an effective entry is a good combination of visual images and recorded narrative. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Develop a storyboard of the types of images that explain the theme.
Photograph pictures from books to build a slide collection and avoid too much repetition.
Music is an important addition to the recorded narrative.
Make sure the narrative fits with the image on the screen.
The availability of affordable video cameras has increased the use of this entry category. Editing software is widely available, which enhances the production quality of the documentary entry. Many communities also have cable access stations that have video equipment available for public use. Following are some suggestions for film and video entries. Students should:
Operate all camera and editing equipment.
Develop a storyboard of the scenes they will be shooting.
Present a variety of panning shots, interviews, live action, and still subjects.
Keep track of the scenes in a notebook or on index cards to make editing easier.
Include music as an effective addition to the finished project.
The computer is now a commonly used tool for creating documentaries. Students are using computers to create special effects, animation, graphics, and other visuals for use in slide or video presentations. Students who choose to use the computer to create their entries should have access to computers with multimedia capabilities and should be familiar with at least one type of presentation software. QuickTime and Adobe Premiere are two examples of software packages that are used to create projects. Students should also have access to editing software (such as iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker that they are able to use themselves.
Exhibits are designed to display visual and written information on topics in an attractive and understandable manner. They are similar to exhibits found in a museum. People walking by should be attracted to an exhibit’s main idea and, therefore, stop to learn more about the topic. To be successful, an exhibit must create an effective balance between visual interest and historical explanation. The most common form of exhibit entry is a three-panel display. This style is the least complicated to design and a very effective way to present information. Here are some tips for this style:
Be sure the title is the main focus of the center panel.
Use the center panel to present the main ideas.
The side panels are best used either to compare issues about the topic or to explain related detail.
Artifacts or other materials may also be placed on the table between the side panels.
The labels used for the title and main ideas are very important because they direct the viewer’s eye around the exhibit. One way to make labels stand out is to have the writing on a light-colored piece of paper with a darker background behind it. This can be done with construction paper, tag board, or mat board. Dark black lettering makes labels easier to read.
Photographs and written materials will also stand out more if they are placed on backgrounds.
Although students will be able to explain their exhibits during the initial judging, a successful exhibit must be able to explain itself. This makes it important to design an exhibit so that the photographs, written materials, and illustrations are easy to understand.
It is always tempting to put as much onto the panel boards as possible, but this usually makes for a cluttered and confusing display. Students should try to select only the most important items for their exhibit boards. Clarity and organization are the most important goals for an exhibit.
A three-dimensional exhibit is more complicated to construct but can be especially effective in explaining themes in which change over time is important. As in the three-panel display, one side should contain the title and main idea. As viewers move around the exhibit the development of the topic can be explored. It is not necessary for the exhibit itself to be able to spin. It may be set on a table (or on the floor) so that people can walk around it.
After a topic has been selected, a research paper involves three basic steps:
Organize the information.
Present it to the reader in a clear and interesting fashion.
The paper should consist of an introduction stating the thesis of the work, a main section addressing the theme, and a conclusion flowing logically from the thesis statement and body. Click here for the complete paper category rules. There are many books available that deal with the writing and documenting of research papers; one that is highly recommended is Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (The University of Chicago Press; sixth edition, 1996).
Students should read the student contest rule book carefully and follow its guidelines. Particular attention should be paid to the length of a paper: it must be between 1500 and 2500 words, or approximately six to ten pages.
Note: Typically, there are twenty-five lines on a page and ten words per line, so if the paper runs over ten pages, it should be shortened.
Writing Essays That Make Historical Arguments is an article that will help students prepare their paper.
Every paper must have an annotated bibliography that is divided into primary and secondary sources. The entries should be in alphabetical order and correct bibliographic form (see Turabian’s Manual). Students should cite only those sources which they actually used in researching the paper. They should not add a lot of extraneous materials unless these are truly relevant to the text and should be careful about using a large number of pictures or maps. If there are too many, the judges may think that the student should have chosen a different category.
Papers should include footnotes. Footnotes are explanations provided by writers stating that ideas or quotations presented in the paper are not their own. Footnotes not only give credit to the originators of ideas, but also serve as evidence in support of a student’s ideas. Use footnotes in the following instances:
Quoting a primary source. Students should footnote any original material used, such as a selection from a speech or an interview. Example from Turabian:4. Merle A. Roemer, interview by author, tape recording, Millington, MD, 26 July 1973.
Quoting a secondary source. Direct quotations from someone’s book must be footnoted. Example from Turabian:Henry Seidel Canby, Walt Whitman: An American (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), 110.
Paraphrasing a secondary source. Even if a student describes an author’s ideas in his or her own words, the source of the information must still be footnoted. Example from Turabian:6. Basil de Selincourt, “The Form,” in Walt Whitman: A Critical Study (London: M. Secker, 1914), 94-115.
The performance category can be one of the most exciting ways to participate in History Day, since it is the only category in which students present their research live. Entries in this category must have dramatic appeal, but not at the expense of historical information. Creativity is the key here, and students must make effective use of their 10-minute time allowance. Here are some suggestions for students who are preparing performances:
Choose a theme-related topic that has personal interest and that will work particularly well as a performance.
Decide whether the chosen topic will be most effective as a group or as an individual performance.
Research the topic first. Write important facts or quotes which might be important to the performance; write a thesis statement, supporting statements, and a conclusion; and think about how these might become a part of the performance.
Prepare a script. Brainstorm about general ideas and the ways they might be presented. If a group is performing, each member should describe different ways that the characters might interact. When writing the script, make sure it contains references to the historical evidence found in the research. Using actual dialogue, quotations, or excerpts from speeches are good ways of putting historical detail into the performance. Remember that the script should center on the thesis statement, supporting statements, and the conclusion.
Be careful not to simply present oral reports on individuals which begin when they were born and end when they died. Instead, become the historical figure and write a script around an important time or place that will explain the major ideas.
Prepare the set. Think about different types of sets which might help in depicting the topic. Is there a prop that is central to the story?
Important: Don’t get carried away with props. Content is the most important factor, and any props used should be directly related to the theme. Remember that performers have only five minutes to set up and take down their props.
Prepare the costuming. Use the most authentic costumes possible. Good costumes help make a performer convincing, but be sure they are appropriate to the topic. Consult photographs or costume guides if unsure about appropriate dress.
Prepare the blocking. To block a performance is to determine where the actors will stand, move, and/or relate to the set. Students should think about these movements when deciding what type of set to design.
Practice, practice, practice! Work on the delivery, speaking clearly and pronouncing all words correctly. Practice voice projection so that the judges and the audience can hear every word. Practice with the set and full costumes as often as possible.
NHD-CA follows the National History Day program rules for all national categories. Student Web site projects must be constructed on the NHD Web site editor https://nhd.weebly.com/
Use the "Learn More About Websites" quicklink to Learn Basic Information from National History Day about the Web Site category. Here, you will learn a bit about what makes the Web site category unique and be able to link to previous years’ winning entries.
Use the "Web Site Survival Guide" quicklink to Download rules and important reminders about where to build your site so judges in your local area and at state and national competitions can review student projects.
History Day judges review entries in their preferred category, give students feedback and select which projects advance from the regional to the state and national events. The time commitment can be as little as one four-hour period or the whole day; you can even preview papers, websites, and documentaries at home.
Why should I judge History Day? Because it is a fantastic way to volunteer your time, connect with students, and learn about history.
Help the youth of California!
As a judge, History Day events are rewarding experiences. The History Day program, students, and teachers will also be relying on you as a critical part of the educational process. Here is what you can expect at History Day, as well as what the program expects of you as a judge.
As a Judge you will:
Sign up in advance on the website.
Attend a judge orientation on the day of the event.
Work with 1-2 other volunteers to review projects and interview students.
Select the strongest projects to advance to the next level of competition.
Provide written feedback about each project you view.
As a judge, you are responsible to:
Arrive on time and stay until the judging process is completed.
Let us know as soon as possible if your schedule changes and you are unable to judge.
Be familiar with the Judge Handbook and the category rules of the projects you are evaluating.
Remember the age of your audience. Some students are as young as 4th grade and may be nervous to discuss their work. Ask questions which prompt students to provide information, and be patient if they are shy or anxious.
Pay careful attention so you can evaluate well. Students have worked for months on their projects and are looking forward this opportunity to share their work.
Judges should avoid distractions such as personal phone calls, texts, etc. during the event. Judges may not bring minor children that they need to supervise to the event.
Let the History Day staff know right away if there are problems. We are here to help!