National History Day in the Cedar Valley

By April 25, 2013 Guest Posts

A guest blog written by one of our 2010 Gold Star recipients, Wayne Haskovec. He currently teaches seventh and eight grade social studies at Hudson Middle School.

First of all, I just wanted to let everyone know how honored I am to be the guest blogger.  The Gold Star award is an outstanding and positive way to recognize what is going on in education.  The topic I am going to discuss revolves around an annual project that I introduce to my 7th and 8th grade students.  The project is called National History Day.  Every year, nearly half a million students participate within the program.

In order for me to really explain the National History Day program, it is very important for me first to talk about what this program has meant to me over the past eleven years.  The National History Day program has given me a chance to create an atmosphere in my classroom that produces passion and opportunity for my students.  The program, including all the steps I have developed within the seventh and eighth grade level, has transformed into something bigger than just an added bonus toward quality research, as well as, enhanced curriculum within my classroom.  The intangible qualities that National History Day projects bring to the table are not only real world based applications, but opportunities for students to showcase their talents.  I am proud to include every student within this nationally based program.  For me, National History Day has rejuvenated a sense of pride and tradition within our student body to be excited about history.  The excitement and pride that my students have exhibited with the inclusion of this program, has elevated students to take responsibility in creating an end product that will remain with them for the rest of their life.  I truly believe that National History Day has given me a chance to bring an activity to students that contains every essential piece of what defines education.

When I first began utilizing the National History Day program within my classroom, I decided that without any doubt, each and every student would participate.  In making that decision, I understood the ramifications and possible situations that I would experience along the way by including 90-110 students.  I would have to say that it has been the best decision I have ever made as an educator.  With making this decision to include every seventh and eighth grade student, I have had the opportunity to teach life lessons in responsibility, cooperative team work, creativity, as well as, the importance of defining student driven thought and written communication with proper primary research. NHD has engrained a sense of constant up-to-date educational tool box that is always evolving.  Basically, NHD will never become outdated because of the choices and actual life-long based learning that takes place every year.

Over the years, I have documented and recorded much of the history surrounding my experience with NHD and the students here in Hudson.   Year after year, primary sources come alive.   What I have noticed the most with this project is that kids remember this process.  If I were to have covered four traditionally based units of material, it would just not be the same type of experience.  NHD has taken on a kind of identity of its own each year.  In addition to the memories, I collect pictures and video to present via a video in order to show future classes each year.  In some cases, I have been able to introduce some of the best primary source examples from over the years.  In one specific year, we had a student who conducted a phone interview with one of the Apollo 11 astronauts.  In another example, one of my previous students found out, after viewing a United Streaming PBS video on the Civil War, that he was a distant relative of Shelby Foote, a renowned Civil War historian.  Even with our annual Veterans Day program, students are becoming more aware and appreciative of history because of their experience with NHD.

Every year NHD comes alive and brings something new to my classroom.  I am excited to incorporate the experience into my curriculum and can’t wait until the next season!  Next year’s theme is Rights and Responsibilities, and many of my students have already started to brainstorm some possible topics!