Students Make History

Share Article

National History Day (NHD) a nonprofit education organization dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of history in schools will host its national contest June 11-15 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

National History Day (NHD) a nonprofit education organization dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of history in schools will host its national contest June 11-15 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Through NHD, students develop critical thinking and research skills by creating exhibits, performances, documentaries and papers they enter in competitions at the district, state and national levels. Each year the students focus their projects around an annual theme. This year, 40,000 teachers have encouraged over half a million students nationwide to investigate NHD projects on the theme "Taking a Stand: People, Ideas, Events."

“National History Day can be a life-changing experience for students who meet their heroes from the past, heroes who inspire students to be exceptional citizens,” NHD Executive Director, Cathy Gorn said.

NHD student projects have literally made history. Students Mona Ghadiri, Callie McCune and Agnes Mazur from Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., created an NHD documentary on Mississippi civil rights activist Clyde Kennard.

The students used their NHD research to advocate for clearing the arrest record of Clyde Kennard, who was imprisoned after repeatedly trying to enroll in all-white University of Southern Mississippi in the 1950s. In May, a judge posthumously exonerated Kennard, who died of cancer in 1963.

He was declared innocent in the same Hattiesburg courtroom where he was convicted in 1960 and sentenced to 7 years' hard labor for stealing $25 worth of chicken feed, a charge disproved this year when the lone witness against him recanted. The students research and advocacy’ efforts helped to bring to light this wrongful conviction and change history.

Other recent NHD projects that made history include:

  •     A project by Hunter Scott in Pensacola, Florida on Capt McVay of the USS Indianapolis and lead to the overturning of McVay’s court martial and Governor Bush of Florida naming a day after Hunter.
  •     Last year, Edgar Ray Killen went on trial for the murderer of three young civil rights workers in 1964. Sarah Siegel, Allison Nichols and Brittany Saltiel, all 16, from Chicago were miles from the Mississippi courtroom, but their NHD documentary provided evidence to the prosecution for the manslaughter conviction of Killen, a reputed Ku Klux Klan member.
  •     Four students from Uniontown, Kansas discovered the forgotten story of Irena Sendler, a Holocaust hero who saved the lives of 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. The students created a performance about Sendler that has inspired a book and movie. The students now travel the world performing and teaching about Sendler. They have established a trust fund for the care of their 92-year old heroine.
  •     Struck by a famous photograph of 16-year-old Elizabeth Eckford surrounded by an angry mob and blocked from entering Little Rock High School, student Heather Jurgensen met and interviewed this member of the Little Rock Nine for her NHD project on desegregation. Jurgense’s curiosity and respect inspired Eckford to make her first public appearance in 40 years.

“Participating in National History Day events introduces students to the excitement that historians feel when working with primary sources and analyzing the data for meaning,” said Molly Berger, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and a historian. “It is the creative side of historical inquiry and the kind of thing that helps students through first hand experience, appreciate why history is important to our understanding of the world and how competing interpretations of historical events can serve to shape public memory.”

A recent study by the University of Minnesota and Minnesota Historical Society reported 95 percent of students showed academic improvement on history related assignments due to the introduction of NHD. To learn more about the NHD visit http://www.nhd.org or call 301-314-9739.

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Mark Robinson
Visit website