With the regional contests for Connecticut History Day completed, now is the time to take a look at the notes from judges and figure out where to improve before the state contest in April. While the majority of students’ research should be complete, students have a month in which they can continue to research in order to improve their projects.. Professor Matthew Warshauer from Central Connecticut State University has provided this guide to contacting experts to further student research.
Connecticut History Day is an incredible resource for students and teachers. Anyone who has been involved in the program can readily see that. Students are challenged and learn that their work can go beyond the classroom. Teachers see their best students rise to those challenges and receive just rewards for hard work.
History Day is also, however, an opportunity for students and teachers to think beyond usual assignments and, especially, contacts. So often, we stay inside our familiar orbits. Students work with their teachers, in their school library, and on the internet. Yet History Day invites students to fly farther, to go beyond where they might if it was a regular assignment.
I remember in one of my graduate school classes a student who had to report on a book. He began his presentation by stating that he had contacted the author. This wasn’t just any old author. It was someone big in the field, and I just couldn’t believe that the student, without any “credentials,” went ahead and called a well-known historian. But, you know, the student’s report and understanding of the book was really good.
Just as importantly, this award-winning author was more than willing to take the time to chat with a student about something in which both had an interest. The point is that Connecticut History Day is a wonderful opportunity for these sorts of interactions. Teachers should encourage their students to reach out. With the internet and email, there are literally no barriers. Most serious scholars are also serious teachers and more often than not they’re happy to help out aspiring young students who show initiative.
Are there any rules to contacting a professional historian? Sure. Here are a few things to think about: