That History Day Guy

June 19, 2008

Thanks 08′

Filed under: Uncategorized — historydayguy @ 12:04 pm

I am sitting on one of the nicer subway cars I have ever been on, in one of my Favorite Cities; DC. I am heading back to College Park. I just dropped off Lily Rishira and her mother Carol at the National Portrait Gallery. Lilly was selected along with outstanding entries from around New York State and the United States to present their work at the Gallery.

It was just Lily and her Mom. They have been on an HD odyssey. They came from Manhattan in NYC and did their initial performance on Monday, went back home to do Lily’s 8th grade graduation, then got word they made run offs and are back again . Fortunately they had already planned to be here for the appearance at the Portrait Gallery. She is Brilliant and we are all very hopeful for her and the rest of the NYS contingent.

I have been judging for 2 days. The first day Ind. Jr. Performance, Day 2 Sr. Group Exhibit. Both exhausting. Both featuring great work. Both so difficult to choose a top 2 for moving on. I had great Co-Judges and Captains. They are very professional and experienced. A pleasure to work with.

The judges do so well in large part to Dr. Rock Star Cathy Gorn who each year conducts a thorough training session with each new group.

I listened carefully as Cathy cheerfully went through all points to remember as we embarked on our tasks.

Cathy had a lot to say but here are some key points:

“We are there to judge not be judgmental.”

  • Providing positive feedback and constructive criticism is essential. I have written and talked extensively about the importance of the judges comments. They must be positive and helpful and CG echoed this.

“This is National History Day-not National Current Events Day!”

  • This is really important to me. Every year I get students to start National History Day and want to tackle a current topic. Many times these topics are well researched, and the students are passionate about the content and do fantastic projects. But this leads me to the next piece:

“Without Context there is no Contest.”

  • When students tackle topics like a controversy in their own state over Power Lines, or try to delve into 911 or Rwanda, it is quite frankly a mind field. For a project to be successful it provides Historical Context. This means the topic is placed in time. It is placed around the other events of the day in some fashion. connections are made; it is the exposition and the hook that brings you into the project itself. Students then make their assertions or arguments CALLED THESIS STAEMENTS PEOPLE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD THESIS STATEMENTS!!!!!

Here is where the students takes a stand or position on the events, supports the arguments with primary sources, then takes it a little bit further and makes some larger historical connection.

As we continue to mourn 911 or stare starkly at news footage of the War in Iraq, none of us have any context. These are emerging events that we are tasked with processing and developing the skills as historians to tell the story for future generations. Cut your teeth on something in the past that is moving to you, and then tie it to current events as your dénouement.

-Ok. I just gave you a lecture. Another point from CG:

” Don’t Lecture!”

  • This is so important and I am hopeful that none of you students had to be on the receiving end of a lecture during competition. It is a time waster. And there are questions that are a waste of time in my opinion.

“How will this affect your life in the future? “ Is a question I hear from judges. An important consideration but these kids just spent 9 months developing a project and they want to tell us how it is affecting them now.

“It answers the “Why” question.

  • The “Why question” answers why is this significant. It answers, why you spent 9 months researching. It answers, why people should care about this event. It answers how it affected people, places, and institutions that followed. It answers all of these and does it through analysis, clarity- context and creativity.

It is now the end of day 3 as I finish this post. We survived all the run offs. Tobi has decided to change her cell phone number. T1 and T2 have taken NYS kids into DC and back. We have shared time with old friends and new from all over the country. We have seen incredible scholarship and work. We have slept on the single most tragic examples of sleep related engineering known to man. We have eaten fantastic Mexican food, and I even climbed a Magnolia tree. It has been wonderful. We will be up at 7 to hit the check out desk and then on to the field house and the parade of states. Good luck to all the HD kids out there. Thanks Cathy, Anne Katrina, Tim, Megan, Cafeteria lady who gave me eggs every morning, and the ladies at the Starbucks. We will miss you all until next year!

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