Understanding Today – National History Day

Does an event from over 40 years ago impact a North Central student today? With tensions mounting throughout the country, is it possible to learn from our past as much as our present? In the case of Rebecca Stauffer and Emily Howson, the answer to both questions is yes. They produced a documentary on the Kent State shootings of 1970, capturing interviews with a university professor who was present and a relative who was a draft resister during the Vietnam War. Their quest for knowledge on the impact of that tragedy sought to satisfy their own curiosity not just for why it happened, but what it means about people. It was produced for National History Day.

nhd-logo“National History Day is a program that encourages students to engage in researching primary sources in an effort to uncover something about the past,” said Dave Wheeler, a U.S. History teacher at North Central who has helped sponsor National History Day for the past seven years. “Students will make the transformation into active researchers that have the chance to become historians in the process of taking a deep look at a topic of their own interest.”

There is a competition element to it as well. While the project is now a course requirement for all students that take Advanced Placement United States History, the best projects advance to a state-wide competition. Perform well there and one can compete at the national level in Washington, D.C. Last year, North Central sent 11 students to the national competition, the most of any area high school! This came after over 700 students and parents were able to participate in the showcase at NC. Students are not only learning, but they are teaching others as well. It has inspired teachers to do more.

“Based on the extensive number of interviews the students were able to secure for many of their projects this past year, each teacher will require that students include at
least one interview as part of their research this year,” Wheeler added. “We have focused a great deal on the use of primary resources with this project, but I believe an interview with an expert on the topic really displays authentic research. In addition, the interview process will only help students to become more engaged with their topic.”

The program, which is underwritten, in part, by a grant from the Advancement Center, has bigger plans for 2016-17. There is a drive to highlight student work beyond the competition itself and bring more Washington Township community members to the showcase. Wheeler has also been able to help launch the program at two middle schools in the district. With hundreds of eager researchers now throughout the township, history surrounds us.

The Advancement Center is proud to be an annual supporter of National History Day. North Central has a rich tradition of teaching history, but this program allows students to go beyond the textbook. Help keep this program strong and continue that North Central pathway to Washington, D.C. Make a gift to our Annual Fund.