“Participating in the National History Day competition is the difference between studying history and being a historian,” explained Chris Weaver, Director of Curriculum and Faculty Development at The Peck School. “Through NHD, students are historians. They select a topic, use primary sources, develop a perspective, and communicate their work to an outside audience. They also develop a deep love of history.”
For the past few years, mandatory participation in the National History Day (NHD) competition has been a big component of the Upper School humanities curriculum. This year, though, Peck is taking that commitment to a higher level. Instead of dedicating a day or two each week towards preparing for the competition, the Upper School history department is now dedicating the entire first six weeks of the semester, for grades 6-8, to NHD.
In addition, instead of allowing students to choose between the five NHD project categories, all sixth grade students will be required to create an exhibit, and all seventh grade students will be required to create website. Eighth grade students can still choose from the five project types (documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website).
During this in-depth unit of study, students are engaged in either group or independent work to complete a research project on a historical, curriculum-related topic based on this year’s theme, Triumph and Tragedy. During the NHD process, students select a topic, write a thesis, complete deep-dive research, and design a final project to display their findings.
Fifth and Sixth Grade History Teacher Sue Longenecker values the life skills students develop throughout the process.
“The NHD competition really enhances our curriculum because it offers them so much freedom of choice,” she explained. “At the same time, we are working continuously with the students to offer feedback, conference with them daily, and help them discover how the topic they have chosen either plays a relevant role today, or had a significant impact on history.”
In addition to the life skills development and journey to discovery, students practice critical research skills that will benefit them in secondary school and college. They learn how to create a final presentation that is clear, organized, and appealing. They learn to build a thesis statement, and critically analyze the choice and relevance of their topic. They investigate resources and learn the difference between primary and secondary sources.
Final NHD projects will be on display at Peck’s National History Day Event on Thursday, November 15 from 8:15 to 9:30 in the Higgins Library. Projects chosen to move on to the NHD Regional round will be announced at that time. In previous years, Peck students have advanced to regional, state, and national levels.