National History Day

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Every day is History Day

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What is History Day?

National History Day is a highly regarded academic program for elementary and secondary school students. History Day in Arkansas is part of the National History Day network.

Each year more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide, participate by choosing historical topics related to a theme and then conducting extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. After analyzing and interpreting their sources and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history, students present their work in one of five categories. Students compete in the spring at local and state [hyperlink to state contest page] levels; the top entries from each state compete in June at the Kenneth E. Behring National Contest held at the University of Maryland.

How do I get involved?

History Day in Arkansas is for students and teachers, supported by a network of parents, schools, judges, and interested members of the public.

Students work individually or as a team to complete a project in one of five categories: original papers, websites, exhibits, performances and documentaries. Read through the History Day How To to learn about the rules and how to register.

If you are a teacher, see our Teacher Resources page for the rules and how to use History Day in your classroom.

Judges are critical to History Day. We are looking for individuals with experience and interest in history, the humanities, or education to provide a constructive critique to students to not only determine the top entries, but also to help students become better historians. If you are interested in judging, visit the Judges Resources page.

If you would like to support History Day in Arkansas: learn more about the local and state contest and become a Friend of History Day.


History Day Program Objectives

  • Provide teachers with an innovative teaching tool.
  • Assist teachers and schools in meeting educational standards by encouraging student participation in portfolio-building and outcome-based learning activities.
  • Encourage the study of social studies by guiding students to express themselves creatively through presentations of historical topics in various formats.
  • Celebrate and build on the strengths of students as creative, capable learners.
  • Interest students in learning about history by integrating the materials and methods of social studies, art, sciences, literature, language, and music into their presentations.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to work with and analyze historical documents and other primary source material.
  • Provide a framework for hands-on, student centered learning that guides classroom teaching as well as continuous professional development.
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help students manage and use information effectively now and in the future.
  • Use compelling themes to develop the multiple intelligences of children, making the academic curriculum more meaningful and accessible to all students.
  • Develop student research and reading skills and to refine student presentation skills in writing, visual projects and performances.
  • Encourage students to move beyond the classroom and into the community to investigate history.
  • Build a classroom community, encourage shared responsibility for classroom management and learning, and promote an understanding of democratic ideals.
  • Encourage students to develop a sense of history as a process of change, a multifaceted development over time that affects every aspect of human life and society.
  • Motivate students through the excitement of competition and through recognition for their work.
  • Involve parents and other members of the community in the students’ education.
  • Expose students to new and exciting educational environments by holding contests on college campuses and at historical societies.

Who Can Participate?

  • Students
    The History Day program is open to all students in grades 6-12. All types of students participate in History Day—public, private, parochial, and home-school students; urban, suburban and rural students; gifted students; and students with special needs. Read about a home-school participants experience.
  • Teachers
    Teachers are the backbone of the History Day program. They serve as mentors for students and are encouraged to integrate the History Day program into their classroom curriculum. Teachers also benefit from resource materials, workshops, and the opportunity for professional development through the History Day program.
  • Parents
    The support of parents is one of the most important factors in the success of students participating in the History Day program. Parents who encourage and facilitate students in their History Day journey often benefit as much from the process as do their children.

Our History

National History Day (NHD) originated as a small, local contest in Cleveland, Ohio in 1974, when Dr. David Van Tassel and members of the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University created a program to help reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools. The program quickly expanded throughout Ohio and into surrounding Midwestern states before becoming a national program in 1980. With initial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, NHD expanded during the 1980s and 1990s. Now, 2 million people are engaged annually from nearly every state in the union. While the competition itself remains the core of the program, NHD has expanded its services to provide workshops, seminars, and curriculum materials for teachers and summer internships for students.Now based in the Washington, DC area, the NHD organization is supported by volunteers across the country, including those who coordinate its state and local programs. Thousands support the program by serving as contest judges, workshop presenters, mentors, and advisers to students and teachers. Hundreds, based at colleges and universities, historical agencies, and educational organizations, serve as state and district coordinators who direct History Day programs in their areas.


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