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History Thrives at National Competition

Some 2,500 middle and high school students from around the nation are gathered this week at the University of Maryland at College Park for the finals of the National History Day competition.

Thumbnail image for Trumbull_Declaration_400px.JPG

As this story in the Baltimore Sun notes, the kickoff event yesterday included a very special guest: one of only 26 known original copies of the Declaration of Independence, which reportedly comes with its own security detail and a professional historian (and sits behind bulletproof glass).

Student projects competing for prizes this year include: "Vaccination: The Musical," a theatrical presentation about the history and impact of vaccines; "Google: Impact and Change," a live performance that illustrates Google's impact on a generation; and "Al Qaeda and the Internet: A New Age in Terror," a documentary that discusses and analyzes terrorists' contemporary use of the Web, according to a National History Day press release.

Each year, organizers say, more than half a million students participate in the NHD contest, which involves local and state competitions, and culminates with the final event at the University of Maryland. Students choose historical topics related to a particular theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral-history interviews, and historic sites. The students present their work in original papers, websites, exhibits, performances, and documentaries.

"The National History Day program works because it is innovative and immersive—it offers young people with varying degrees of academic ability the opportunity to create projects on topics of their choosing, in the medium that works best for them," Cathy Gorn, the NHD's executive director, said in the press release. "We really need to continue to emphasize the importance of history education and achievement for our young people."

The winners from individual state History Day contests are competing at the University of Maryland in the final round on the theme of "Innovation in History," according to the press release. More than 300 judges—including historians and educators from secondary and higher education institutions, museums, archives, and government agencies—will evaluate the students' work throughout the week.

You can check out daily webisodes from this week's competition at the NHD channel on youtube.

Image: "Declaration of Independence" by John Trumbull

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