That History Day Guy

June 11, 2007

Fear the Turtle

Filed under: National Contest,Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 6:55 pm

We arrived at the University of Maryland around 3 pm and there were several hundred people from around the country milling around, registering, trading buttons. The campus is beautiful and THDG is originally from Pensacola, Fl, and it was nice to be back in a place that sells grits in their cafeteria.
Tobi Voigt, Laura Ferro, and Rebecca Smith are all here to support our students, the national office and see the wonderful work from around the country. I am writing as Cathy Gorn is beginning the judges training at the 07 National Contest. ( I am not a judge. I crashed because I heard there was free coffee and a rumor that Cathy had created a PowerPoint!)Yesterday she MC’d the Welcome ceremonies with the 50 states song, and all the groups cheered. There were even students from Hawaii, American Samoa and DOD schools from Europe.
The keynote speaker was Ken Burns. Ken is not a tall guy. I like to call him a pocket size historian. But for what he lacks in stature he makes up for his passion for the study of history.
Cathy called him the “Rock star” historian. And that is true. After he spoke the children mobbed him. At one point, Ken’s handlers told him that he needed to go, and he told them to back off so he could give time to those children who hold him in such high regard.
Helluva’ nice guy.
He talked extensively about his new film called “The War.” He joked that after 17 years all he has managed to do is remove the word “civil” from his film. We were all excited to hear that they have taken on the challenge of representing the American Experience of world War II and that our students will have such a wonderful source to make this enormous historic topic relatable to their individual experience
He told the audience “ You bind together our collective history” And he is right. National History Day is an outpouring of a sea of historical topics, images, and scholarship. These students are in love with their topics. They have spent the year analyzing and thinking critically, and doing the things that we so want our children to do as students.
As we listen to Cathy, all over this campus are 11-14 year old kids whose hearts are beating, their stomachs are fluttering waiting as they wait for this group to question and probe them. (Figurative probing. Don’t be scared kids!)
Cathy reminded the judges “Your job is to teach kids.” … “What most kids will go home with is your comments”

She is right. Its about them learning about their learning. Kids will remember more of what they did and learned, not what they won.


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