Charting the future by uncovering the past – National History Day with Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson has been teaching high school History and English for the past 15 years, eight of which have been at Concordia. Before that, he taught in Seattle and Boston. His passion is to come up with approaches to teaching history that empower students as historians, that allow students to explore their own passions through rigorous historical research, and that make the process of “doing history” real and relevant to students. The most tangible way he sees to achieve this is through the National History Day program. In this episode, Mark shares how schools can bring history from the past into the present with relevance using the National History Day program as a vehicle.
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The only thing that constrains us is our own creativity.
Intro to the National History Day program
National History Day (NHD or just History Day) is a program that empowers students as historians to conduct original research into any historic topic of their choice, ultimately presenting their findings to an authentic audience to be discussed, appreciated, and evaluated. The approach builds upon good teaching and learning in the social studies curriculum and provides opportunity for engagement through research, critical thinking and presentation.
The goal of the History Day approach is to teach rigorous research and effective communication of final products to an authentic audience. In a larger sense, it is to give students an opportunity to explore the history of subjects they are passionate about through their own investigation.
A measurable student impact
- Builds excitement about that lasts throughout a student’s high school career
- Increases confidence in student’s own abilities
- Knowing that the work will be viewed by broader community, encourages focus and diligence
- Development of historical thinking skills
- Deeper understanding of history
- Increased preparedness for university level work
Impact on the greater community
- School community get involved
- Teachers, tech coaches, librarians, admin
- Parents, professionals, specialists
- Participation is expanding around the world to new regions
Program set up
NHD does not require a change in curriculum or teaching methodology. Projects can be assigned as class activities. Themes are easily incorporated into the current social studies curriculum, applying skills that are already being developed (e.g., research, critical thinking and analysis, etc.).
Must-haves to ensure success
For those in a country or region that has NHD affiliation
- Connect with affiliate coordinator for your region
- Find out deadlines and themes
For those looking to establish NHD affiliation
- Connect with NHD national office and request permission to pursue affiliate status
Wish list items
- Buy-in and support from administration and school community
- Dedicated teachers who want their students to explore their own creativity, insight and diligence
- Connection with NHD national office
Your next step
- Visit the NHD website; read more about it.
- Find closest affiliate and observe a contest, or volunteer as a judge.
- Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past, 2001 by Wineburg, Sam.
Connecting with Mark
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Mark Johnson and we’ll make sure Mark receives your message.