East High School student back from national history competitionEarlier this month, three high school students from Minnesota traveled to Washington, D.C to compete in a nationwide history contest. After months of research and days of competing, three silver medals traveled back to the North Star State.
By: Sarah Alabsi, Duluth Budgeteer News
Earlier this month, three high school students from Minnesota traveled to Washington, D.C to compete in a nationwide history contest. After months of research and days of competing, three silver medals traveled back to the North Star State. One of these medals came back around the neck of Duluthian Billy Menor.
“If you have passion for something, that passion can take you places, and it took me to Washington, D.C,” said Menor, a student at East High School.
What Menor is so passionate about is National History Day (NHD), a year-round academic program open to elementary and secondary students across the nation; and it’s not getting enough recognition, says Menor.
“It’s not as popular as it should be, not at all. In the schools that it is in, though, it is valued and appreciated,” said Menor.
Nevertheless, the young historian believes the program is worthwhile.
“NHD teaches kids about passion,” said Menor. “For me, it was just having the opportunity to go to Washington and show kids that they’re capable of doing so much and that they’re a lot larger than they think they are.”
Menor is not the only one who believes that NHD has positive effects on students.
“Every student learns something when working on a project, even if it means getting kids in a library for the first time,” said Program Associate for Minnesota National History Day’s Education Outreach Rachel Hernandez.
More than 500,000 students throughout the United States participate in NHD every year, according to the National History Day program. Every year, a new theme is chosen and projects submitted must have topics relating to the theme. This year’s theme was “Turning Points.”
The National History day program culminates in the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest. The contest, named after a generous benefactor, takes place at the University of Maryland in Washington, D.C in early June, and is where Menor and groupmates Monica Nelson and Sarah Becker finished second.
Nelson, Becker (both from Ham Lake, Minn.) and Menor competed in regional and state competitions before qualifying for the national level. This was Menor’s fourth year reaching the national contest. Menor says that competing is just one way NHD can provide students with lessons necessary for their future.
“You have to do research, differentiate between sources, investigate different sides of a story, find historical context, and see why it affects the project,” said Menor. “It taught me communication skills
and research skills that I use every day.”
When in the 8th grade, Me-nor and fellow Holy Rosary student partner Adam Kneepkens did their History Day project on balloon angioplasty. For their research, they contacted and spoke with experts at Medtronic and doctors from Essentia Health to gain important information on the topic.
“Not often do 8th-graders speak with professionals in an interview type manner, so History Day helps students gain confidence in speaking with adults,” said Hernandez.
According to the National History Day organization, classrooms participating in the curriculum should be given themes at the beginning of the school year, students should decide topics by October, and major project decisions should start by December.
Menor encourages teachers to assign history projects to students earlier in the year. If students are proud of their work, they can submit it to the History Day competition. At Holy Rosary, Menor’s former elementary and middle school, students in 6th- and 8th grade were required to submit their history projects to the regional level.
“History Day is also a great way to meet state social studies standards and can be worked into the curriculum,” said Hernandez. “Students often put more time and effort into a History Day project than any other assignment because of that personal interest they gain when allowed to choose their own topic.”
To Menor and Hernandez, participating in the competition with school representation is helpful.
“You can do it without a school, but it’s hard if you haven’t done it before or don’t have a coach,” said Menor.
Projects can submitted via different categories, including paper, documentary, performance, exhibit and website. All projects include a process paper which tells judges and educators how the project was
researched and how it relates to the theme of that year’s competition.
Menor says that his History Day experience is only one of thousands with affirmative results.
“I think it enhances learning and the high school experience beyond what teachers can think of. It creates such a love and passion for learning,” said Menor.
Next year’s project theme will be Rights and Responsibilities in History, according to NHD.org.
If you are interested in participating in National History Day or have questions about introducing it to a curriculum, visit http://education.mnhs.org/historyday/ or call (651) 259-3425.