That History Day Guy

June 17, 2009

National History Day 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 9:51 pm

Opening Ceremonies at McKeldin Mall:



Every year students gather on the expansive lawn to furiously trade buttons, meet kids from all over America, Europe, Guam (Current Rock Stars) and American Soma. This year there was even representation from Shanghai China!

The New York contingent gathered early to stake out a great spot for viewing in front of the McKeldin Library. Students were welcomed with brightly colored bags stuffed with extra NYSHD t-shirts, buttons and paperwork for the week.

The buttons and shirts are really ramped up this year and Wisconsin was my favorite. It is black and features a Pirate Cow.

The ceremony opened with the pocket full of Dynamite that is Dr Cathy Gorn. She whooped up the crowd with her traditional welcoming of the 50 states. We were then treated to a short biographical film about Kenneth E Behring whom the National Contest is now named for, This year he has given over 2 million dollars to the contest. There are many feelings about his involvement but what can be said for sure that his generous infusion of cash has resulted in the saving of state programs all over the country.

The real show began when Megan Felt a history day Alum took the stage to demonstrate the power of the National History Day program. As a freshman in High school she and classmates began an amazing odyssey that helped to bring to light the amazing story of Irena Sidler. Sidler was a Polish social worker who was responsible for the saving of over 2500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto. In 1999 when the students first accessed the news story about Irena, there was almost no information on the subject.

At the time a Google search revealed one entry. But the students persevered and through searching through public polish records found Irena, wrote her, and began their amazing odyssey.

The girls developed a performance for NHD but insuring yeas they developed so much more. They were asked to perform their play across the country, they brought Irena story to a national audience, and today, do in large part to the student’s tireless efforts Irena’s story, and the stories of those children who survived and were reunited with their families’  and continue to be reunited as a result of Megan and her organization’s efforts.

This is the power of NHD. Starting with just a desire to learn, and ending up with an organization that can change the world. Now not every kid has this kind of transformative experience but most do have some kind of experience that will transform the way they learn or look at history. It’s going to be a great week!


June 14, 2009

History DayGuy Resurection

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 6:15 pm

Like the mighty Terminator I am rising from the ashes of a year long hiatus to bring you the latest in New York State and National History Day. The last year has seen a return to school for That History Day Guy, but I have not been idle in my work in the Empire State. This past year saw the inclusion of Buffalo New York in the state contest, grants written on behalf of urban and rural areas, and we are very excited to announce that Fredonia College is offering the first for credit internship in History Day specifically dedicated to outreach to teachers and students.

This year promises to be a big one for us because we have just received a grant from The Eastern Region for Teaching with primary sources ( a program from the Library of Congress) to reach out to teachers both in central New York and all over the state.

But today we are at the Big Show.The National Contest. Students have begun to arrive   at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Competition 2009. We have seen our friend Mr. History, met students from around the country and Europe, and have watched as excited kids set up  exhibits for judging.

We will join about 53 students from around NYS at opening ceremonies at MaKeldin Mall at UM for the opening ceremonies. So I hope you will follow along as I will be updating live throughout the contest and every Friday for the next year detailing our efforts at bringing New York State History Day to as many students and teachers as we can!

October 14, 2008

Secondary Sources

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 11:51 pm

Are you tired of feeling dirty for using Wikipedia?  Come on. You know you’ve tried it.  It starts slow when you need a little information on Mary Todd Lincoln, and before you know it you have based your disertation on someone known as pinksparkle42.

So let me turn you on to a secondary source you can feel pretty good about. It is the Digital History .Project.

This is by a bunch of nice museum, public park and teacher people. It is a good place to start with large American History Topics and it can get you going on the research train. The best part. You don’t feel dirty after!

October 13, 2008

Where my Feminist At?

Filed under: Topics — historydayguy @ 9:25 pm

OK. I have an Individual in History that will rock your Kitchen. She is a sister to a famous novelist and daughter of a famous evangelist but she is her own woman! She is Katherine Beecher. Katherine, sister to Harriet Beecher Stowe, was an advocate for women’s education, abolition, and had an insightful view on how to educate the young. She worked tirelessly to extol the virtues of domestic life and empowered women in their work, and encouraged those who thought they could only marry and have kids.

Now, she still towed a party line of subservience to men in many regards. Her Treatise on the Home Economy takes a strike at the view that women’s work was somehow less important, demanding, or relevant than the work of men. She challenged the status quo and provided women the moral emphasis to undertake the rearing of the next generation to strengthen our very culture.

She is at once keeping women in the kitchen and getting them into the work place. She started many schools for women, helped them take their place as the norm in schools ( in place of ill trained men who often lacked a career, and were only teaching because they had no other options) and took their sphere out of the realm of secondary importance.

Now remember this is history, so I could be totally wrong here. But if you want to take on an individual who is very much an enigma (Katherine never had children or owned her own home) then this is your woman!

September 26, 2008

Defining “Legacy”

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 8:54 pm

 The question has arisen recently about what the term “Legacy” means in the latest theme: The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies.

There are many of us with near honorific memories of trying to define the word “conflict” for our student’s parents and teachers. When this topic came around I hadn’t remembered what consternation it had caused and we wrestled with the physical, human, moral, military and commercial compromises that happen in history and worked hard to help students understand these ideas.

So I have a short classroom activity that may help with the idea of “legacy”

Step I:

 Break your kids into small groups. Tell them that they have all received some sad news that Your favorite rich Uncle Bernie has passed away. But they are also informed that this relative has left a considerable amount of moiney behind, but there are some strings attatched: the money can’t just go anywhere it must be given away to charity, and you must decide which charitiy it goes to!

The Choices for the inheritance which is 2.25 million dollars are the following:


Charity One: Dogs without well to do wners: This organization seeks to pair dogs of exceptional breeding, or pure bred dogs, with wealthy families. They usually find pure bred dogs who are being given up for adoption, have been abused, or just living in a person’s home who makes less than $25,000 a year and places them in the home of CEOs, starlets, heiresses, royals, and other individuakls deemed to be appropriate home environments for dogs thought to be “only fit to live in homes where they can live in the life style they were born to inherit.”

The organization owns a series of shelters or “spas” as they call them and a small fleet of planes to transport dogs around the country. The Foundation also gives money to the Beverly Hills College of Veterinary Medicine to support the continued goal of keeping animals healthy and beautiful for all the years of their life.

 Charity Two:

Help for the children: This is an organization that seeks to reach out directly to families in emergency situations to provide for immediate help when they need it. Weather it be families in disasters who have lost everything and need schools for clothes, food, and medicine, or families who lack shelter or housing, the foundation also supports a number of temporary residences for families around the country.

The money would be used to open a new shelter where they would be able to support a large city that has a large population who regularly is experiencing issues of reliable housing.


And Three:

Tomorrows Leaders:

Tomorrows leaders are a nonprofit group that follows at risk students from grades k all the way through graduation of undergraduate college. The students are assigned mentors, spend two weeks each year in leadership camps in the summer, and provide parent workshops. The parent workshops are directed at health, child rearing, budgeting and helping your child transition to college. If students remain successfully in the program for the first twelve years, T.L. will assist students with acquiring scholarships or provide them for their transition to college.


Your Uncle Bernie trusts you. He thinks you’re his smartest living heir. His instructions are: Choose the charity that will have the most important and longest impact out of the three organizations.


Step II

Have groups review the organizations. Ask them to create a three column chart. Place the organization’s name at the top.

Have the groups listed the most important impacts and the farthest reaching impacts, these organizations will provide.


Step III

Have the students report out their responses. List the benefits of giving the money to each group on the board.

 Engage the group and see if you can come to a class consensus on what group will meet Uncle Bernie’s requirements.


Step IV


Share with the students that these long term impacts will represent the “Legacy” of your Uncle Bernie’s Will. They are the good deeds and contributions made after he has gone.



Step V

Choose a number of individuals from history. Examples: Abraham Lincoln, Lucretia Mott, Jane Adams, Booker T. Washington, George McCarthy.  

Remind the students that all of these people’s lives and actions resulted in later legacies.

Ask students to choose three and complete the same exercise individually for homework. As a follow up, discuss these historical legacies to further illustrate the point.


September 8, 2008

Making National History Day happen in the classroom

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 3:49 pm

Recently there were some questions floating around concerning people teaching classes on History Day. This project is an interesting example of students creating documentary films ( category in HD) .

While not expressly an NHD class it is an example of students creating very meaningful projects in the context of a the classroom.

I get a lot of questions about how to do History Day in the classroom. I get the usual moaning about how there is simply too much going on to add another thing to the curriculum, but all too often when I am in the classroom it is simply a race to get to the Civil War before Christmas in order to prepare for “The Test.” Whatever standardized monster that may be for the particular state.

The thing is running that race to the civil war and answering the questions at the end of the chapter sections is not getting your kids able to think critically, analyze information and deal with historical information in an engaging way.

Doing history day will take your students to  new places. It will expand their existing skills as they work towards a goal that becomes more and more important to them.

The best part is NHD and other Places produce resources that can help you implement the program i the classroom without an enormous amount of extra time. I think of my days as a substitute teacher where students watched Apollo 13 for a solid week in a social studies class. There is time in the curriculum. If you dedicate two weeks out of your entire year and some dedicated chatting with kids on the side you can make HD happen in the classroom in a painless fashion.

September 3, 2008

Can’t Keep those HD kids Down

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 9:49 pm

Ok. Check this piece out by some kids from the Empire State.

Good ideas from the Windy City for thesis development

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 9:38 pm

So our Friends in the Windy city have used (as do most of us) the inverted pyramid to narrow a thesis.

It starts with the broadest possible topic, say the Civil War, then narrows it to say slavery, looks at an even narrower one, say Fredrick Douglass. Now that is all good for developing your topic but how does it drive your thesis.

Well check the posted presentation.

They combine some standard research questions with the considered topic that will force students into the exercise of analyzing their topic by asking the essential questions such as:

  • What changed? How and why?
  • What was the historic significance?
  • What was the long term impact?

So asking

  • How did Fredrick’ life change from slavery to freedom? How and Why?
  • What impact did his writings and speeches have on not only the abolitionist movement, but other progressive movements of the time?
  • What historic figures would or would not be possible because of the actions and legacies of Fredrick Douglass?
  • I love it when there are free great resources out there just waiting to help us with our history day work!

So thanks Chicago History Fair for providing this great resource!

August 20, 2008

You better watch out…

Filed under: Resources,teacher support,theme — historydayguy @ 2:07 pm

It is that exciting time of year where History Day teachers all over are going to bed earl, being extra good and are giddy with excitement because the History Day Fairy will soon deliver their FREE 2009 Curriculum Packet!

This year it is all about the individuals who have impacted the larger historical fabric. Sure to be a page turner!

The History Day Gal and I are heading at to the amazing city of Buffalo today to prepare for a meeting that will hopefully have around 50 folks. We are eager to ring NYSHD to the people in Sabres country.

So for those of you who end up taking us up on being a part of this magical cult we call history day, here are a few great names to tie to local history Joseph Ellicott Fredrick Olmstead George Washington Jonson I realize these are three white guys. Not representing the entirety of Buffalo’s rich diverse past and present, ut i isn’t even 8 a.m., so I’ll let you dig through the links and find the other figures who will be great topics for this year’s contest!

August 15, 2008

Tu Pac Kurt Cobain and Marlyn Monroe

Filed under: theme — historydayguy @ 1:36 pm

So the question is, beyond cheap bedspreads at flea markets, do these figures represent historic individuals who should be remembered in effigy?

Certainly we don’t have to go very far to look at the cultural implications of their lives, lifestyles, fashion, and even music. I myself sat with friends and watched the unplugged shows and mourned Curt’s tragic passing. I owned a nappy green sweater and a striped shirt. I still hear the angst and cries of his work repeated time and time again in today’s popular music. But Kurt did not affect my civil rights. Or redefine how I power my home. Or make a decision that determined my nationality for the next 200 years. Are you following me?

There are many kids who could give a flip about pursuing a HD project and being able to explore the musical influence, and fashion and cultural circumstances behind a cult or popular figure may engage them in an academic pursuit that will give them important academic experiences. It should be encouraged. But who was the figure in history that really started Rap or Hip Hop? What historic structures and events produced the world that led to the explosion in musical movements? How did early Bluesmen, who are at the roots of American Music, affect Tu Pac today? How did white flight, the crack cocaine epidemic, and the disproportionate number of African Americans serving and dying in Vietnam affect the culture that led to the emergence of Hip Hop culture?

Now with Kurt, he is just another angry suburban white boy. I can’t help you there.

In these situations it is a teaching moment. As an adult it is up to us to point out these larger cultural and historical connections. This will open the eyes of our students and broaden their world views.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at