Last weekend the deadline finally came as students and a few of my fellow social studies teachers boarded a bus bound for Morehead State University. After six months of prodding, persuading, motivating, and pleading, my students were about to compete in the National History Day regional competition. But were they ready? Was I ready? I'll be honest, not really. As this was my first year sponsoring the competition, I was flying blind in assisting my students' projects.
If you were like me and unfamiliar with NHD, it's a research competition where every year there is a theme in which students must identify a topic that relates to the theme and come up with an argument to defend. This years theme was, "Taking a Stand." I thought it was an easy enough theme to find a topic in history - civil rights movement, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Women's Suffrage, etc. etc.
Once the students chose their topic, then they had to formulate an argument about their topic to defend. One of the more compelling arguments from one of my students involved arguing that the Whiskey Rebellion did more to shape American attitudes on taxation than the Boston Tea Party. The final step of the NHD project was for the students to pick a format in which to use to defend their arguments. The choices were to create a documentary, perform a skit, design a website, orally defend a thesis paper, or construct a visual display board.
In the end, after all the fumbling around, we gathered in the auditorium on campus for the awards ceremony. To our surprise, all six of my students qualified for the state competition! Turns out we were doing exactly what was expected in preparing for the NHD competition. I guess the biggest takeaway for me was simply trying something new and allowing yourself to learn alongside your students. There were times I honestly didn't know if I was helping or getting in their way for this. But I just pulled a page from my years as a soccer coach and stressed that we're all in this together and we need to help each other out if we're going to do this.
So now....we polish these suckers off for state next month!