Today and tomorrow, hundreds of kids will be nervously presenting the fruits of their historical labors at National History Day. Middle and high school students have written essays, performed plays, and created exhibits, documentaries, and websites as part of a national extravaganza of history research akin to a humanities version of a science fair. They’ve advanced through local and state competitions to win spots at the national finals at the University of Maryland.
USCHS has been fielding a team of judges for many years, usually reviewing high school papers. Some on our staff are also former History Day competitors. Around here, we love History Day! It’s an amazing encounter with youth and enthusiasm, and we always learn a few things about one or more of the topics. (Though we didn’t have a paper on the Amish this year—unusual.) History Day also reminds us about the importance of the work we do here, not just in terms of educating the public about the history of the Capitol and Congress, but also about the value of renewing the spark of inquiry and the skills of investigation in a rising generation of learners in all fields.
Check out History Day online, and if you’re really curious, consider going to UM this week to see some of the live presentations. You can also get involved on the local level by mentoring students, volunteering, or judging local and state competitions. I can’t recommend it enough—you’ll come away impressed with the students and with a reinvigorated appreciation of the work of history.