National History Day
on May 18, 2007
What is National History Day? Think science fair but history projects. Junior high and high school students all over the country create exhibits, documentaries, websites, skits, and papers based on the theme of the year ("triumph and tragedy" this year). The Philadelphia contest is held at the Constitution Center each year. Philadelphia has not been involved as long as many school districts around the state, but there are several hundred students who participate in Philadelphia.
This week, I was a judge for the second time at the state competition, held at Penn State. I judged the junior high website division the first day, then the run-offs for the senior group performance (skit) the second day. Very impressive stuff. Great to see students get so pumped up about history. And we aren't just talking creative projects, we are talking about projects that involve extensive research and use of primary sources.
I have to admit that the documentaries were my favorite. I only had a chance to see a few, but they were great. I can't believe that junior high and high school students are making their own documentaries. Two students from the Constitution High School (new school with the Constitution Center and law firm Ballard Spar as partners) created a great documentary about graffiti in Philadelphia. Another team from West Catholic had one about William Friedman, the cryptologist who broke the Japanese code during World War II.
I'm all jazzed about making a documentary of The Philadelphia Negro... or maybe getting some grant money so some of these students could make one for me.