This year’s NHD theme not only provides opportunities for students to search for inspirational stories, but to also share and to ponder their impact. It also provides teachers and students with a golden opportunity for metacognitive growth. For, if truth be told, one of the greatest barriers to creating a successful project is the difficulty encountered when trying to select an appropriate topic.
Here is a sample of just some of the barriers in topic selection that I, and the students with whom I work with, tend to run into.
American conservatives generally believe in preserving the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. In the 1960’s the Black Panther Party also championed those rights. What is the real issue in the gun control debate? Why is it so hard to come to an agreement on what should be done?
Global warming is a major issue to be sure but the melting of the polar ice cap may be hard to relate to. However, what about the effect of global warming on the frequency of storms in our area? Can we prepare for them? Are we going to have to sacrifice some things in order to keep ourselves safe?
The very issue of a barrier is one that connotes an unsettling feeling in most people. Why is that? Are all barriers bad? Why are barriers created in the first place? Can breaking a barrier be a bad thing? How did we get the feeling we have about barriers? Can two people view the same barrier differently?
As that great philosopher, and pretty good baseball player, Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” If you really watch something closely, you are bound to have questions about what you are seeing. Those questions are what will lead the students to topics of interest. Topics of interest will translate into an eagerness to learn and that eagerness will go a long way to helping the students persist when they encounter obstacles along the way. I believe that it is important to ask the right questions.
Regardless of the annual theme, the NHD process is all about breaking barriers; those that are imposed on us or those that we impose on ourselves. When it comes to topic selection, taking the time to recognize these barriers and to examine how we typically deal with them can make all the difference.
Tony Andrade is the Fairfield Regional Coordinator and a former middle school social studies teacher.