The trip to the National Contest is always a wonderful celebration of the achievements of Connecticut's students. It's a delight to get to know students, teachers, and parents. This year's 68-member delegation was pretty amazing and the 2019 National Contest was one of the most memorable contests ever!
Never in our history have so many Connecticut students received national awards. It really was unbelievable, especially when you consider that approximately 4,000 Connecticut students participate and that there are states with 30,000 or more participants.
Connecticut dominated the Senior Paper category. Margo Pedersen from Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven won First Place for her paper Malaga Island: How the State of Maine Devistated a Resilient Island Community in the Name of the Greater Good. Ishan Prasad from Staples High School in Westport won Second Place for his paper Shah Bano and India's Postcolonial Predicament: Gender vs. Religion.
Mia Porcello from Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford won First Place in the Senior Individual Exhibit division for her project Out of the Closet and into the Medicine Cabinet: ACT UP New York's Healthcare Triumphs. This is the third time Mia has won first place at the National Contest.
Two Connecticut students won Special Prizes. Marlena Pegolo from Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford won Outstanding Entry in World War I History for her performance, The Tragic and Triumphant "Tail" of Stubby, the Military Dog. Josh Picoult from Simsbury High Schoolin Simsbury won the U.S. Constitution Award for his project Where Do We Draw the Line? How the Triumph of District-Based Representative Government Devolved into a Tragic Distortion of American Democratic Ideals.
Lindsay Moynihan from Conard High School in West Hartford won a four year scholarship to the University of Maryland for her project Turning a Tragedy into a Triumph" Dolley Madison, the War of 1818, and the Creation of a National Identity. Lindsay has been a CHD participant for six years.
Two Connecticut students recieved the Outstanding Connecticut Entry Prizes. Eileen Peng from Irving A. Robbins Middle School in Farmington won a Junior Division prize for her paper The Treason of Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Triumph and Tragedy. Katelyn Meyers from Nonnewaug High School, Region 14 won a Senior Division prize for her exhibit, The Nuremberg Doctors Trials.
Two other Connecticut teams were finalists. Iniya Raja from Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor finished in 6th place for her Junior Individual Performance, The Eugenic Roles: Dead Souls and Birth Control. Emma Losonczy, Lucia Wang, Mallika Subramanian, Rhea Choudhury, and Sharmila Green from Bedford Middle School in Westport finished in 8th place for their Junior Group Exhibit, Lise Meitner: A Woman's Determination and Scientific Triumph Through Personal Societal Tragedy.
The National Contest was much more than just winning awards. Morgan Geisinger from Vernon Center Middle School was one of 57 students to share her exhibit, Triumph Over Tragedy: Newsies Stop the World, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Wednesday, June 12. That same day, a group of five students, McKenna Semeraro, Walter Vallecillo, Luis Nunez, Marlon Vallecilla, and Saoirse Noyes from CREC Montessori Magnet School in Hartford presented their documentary on the Little Rock 9, entitled Paying a Price for Education, to Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis insisted his whole office come to watch the students' work and commented that "we learn from young people." In researching their topic, the students interview the sister of one of the Little Rock 9 students. Luis Nunez commented that "we poured passion into our presentation."
Connecticut students had a chance to come together during the week as well. Many students attended the Welcome Ceremony on Sunday, June 8. While rain forced us inside, it was still an honor to listen to Civil Rights Activist Judy Richardson as she spoke about her experience with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. On Monday, June 9, we celebrated the end of the first round of judging for the junior division and welcomed many senior division students with an ice cream social. The University of Maryland's Dairy Store is a firm favorite of NHD participants! On Wednesday, June 12, many members of CT's delegation joined Liz Porter, the Norwich Regional Coordinator, and I for a trip to Washington D.C. The group toured the U.S. Capitol, visited the U.S. Supreme Court, and met with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. One of the Senator's staff, Natalie, is an NHD alumni and she spoke to our group about her experiences. The National Contest culminated in the Awards Ceremony, held in the Xfinity Center at UMD.
It was another exciting National Contest! As always, I am struck by the breadth of topics students explored. All of us at Connecticut History Day are proud of all of the students who participated this past year.
- Rebecca Taber-Conover
State Coordinator for Connecticut History Day
I've participated in National History Day for two years now. In 8th grade, my social studies teacher encouraged us to create a project for NHD. I decided to give it a try. A couple of my friends and I chose to create an exhibit together. The teacher helped us choose a topic and gave us some tips on where to start our research. We finally decided that our topic would be the Cuban Missile Crisis. We did extensive research on this event and I really learned a lot, not only about the topic but about the techniques that are used to interpret history and create an argument. Processes like this really helped me in my first year of high school, as well as creating my second project: an individual paper. I was lucky enough to have been selected to compete at the national competition for both years and have many great experiences.
One of the first experiences I had was at the opening ceremony. At the 2019 ceremony, we were fortunate to hear a civil rights activist speak. The activist talked about her life in the South and her involvement in Freedom Summer. It was really interesting to hear a personal account of the events that occurred, as well as her unique perspective on the Civil Rights Movement. Overall, National History Day has provided me, as well as many other students, a unique opportunity to meet important figures and to listen to their ideas.
Another fun experience that had at National History Day was the pin exchange. Milling around, in search of pins from other states gives you the chance to talk to participants from all over the country. It also teaches one the great art of bargaining! This year I came home with over 40 pins from other states!
The interviews with judges are also, believe it or not, quite enjoyable. Over the last couple of years, I have interviewed with judges at the regional, state, and national competitions. The judges are really friendly and they are truly interested in our projects. I liked both the seminar format for papers as well as the one-on-one interviews for exhibits (and papers at Nationals).
The capstone experience is, of course, the awards ceremony. The "Parade of States" is exhilarating. We met early in the morning, armed with our Connecticut banners and flags and joined all of the other states (and international teams to boot!) as we marches around the stadium. Seeing all of those different states and participants in one place really made me realize how fortunate I was to be there. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. This year, at Nationals, my paper won second prize, another Connecticut paper won first prize, and several other Connecticut projects received prizes as well. This rare occurrence in the paper category proved how stiff the competition was this year in Connecticut but also shows how devoted and amazing our teachers are to helping us and helping understand the feedback from CHD staff and judges. Their time, effort, and ideas inspired us!
From 2014-2017, I was a participant of the Connecticut History Day contest in the individual performance category. The first time I was told about History Day, I was driven by the long term research and composition of the projects. I knew that I was ready to take on a new challenge.
The best part of History Day was always choosing a topic. In school, we only ever learned a portion of history from different time periods: we get a basic understanding of important historical figures and how they create a lasting impact. I enjoyed exploring a wide variety of topics within a centralized theme and focusing on aspects of history beyond the ones in our textbooks.
Another great aspect of History Day was creating your project's thesis. My project: "Exploring the Power of Dance: Martha Graham" for the 2016 theme of Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange was built off of a thesis focusing on Martha Graham's ability to revolutionize dance through the expansion of boundaries. Through countless textbooks, New York City dance studio tours, and exposure to different types of empowering, modern dance techniques, I was able to derive this thesis and bring her story back to life-- a feeling so satisfying that I wanted to learn more about her.
Following my first place win at the Hartford Regional Contest that year, I did just that. I utilized the easy accessibility to the libraries at ECSU and UConn, as well at the Library of Congress resources, to find more articles and information on Graham's significance. Having the opportunity to obtain copies of Graham's performances allowed me to get creative with the facts, connect myself to my audience, portray a beautiful art form, while also analyzing all of the information in a way that can be understood today. This is one of the greatest things I learned from being a participant of CHD. There is truly something satisfying in bringing a historical figure to life and recreating their story.
The extensive research and writing brought be all the way to Nationals. Although I did not place, the one thing I did win was a new experience and a new group of friends-- one thing that people forget to mention in their overall experience of History Day. I met so many people and made so many friends during my History Day journey. The people from all over the state, all over the country, and all over the world, come together for one shared interest-- history, along with a sense of creativity.
History Day is something still very near and dear to my heart. It has been a part of my life for years now. Which is why I took on the decision to be a judge for the contest. I missed all of the hype of the contest from when I was a participant that I knew I still wanted to be a part of all the excitement and use my experiences and expertise to help students foster their educational experience.
It's wonderful to be able to sit back and listen to the students as they present their projects. I learned about so many different topics that I probably never would've known about if it wasn't for History Day.
Although I love seeing all my medals lined up along my wall from all the regional, state, and national contests that I participated in, the best thing for me was finishing all my papers: printing four copies of my annotated bibliography and process paper and feeling the warmth of the endless pages as the ink dried and I stapled them together in the top left corner; seeing the finalized word count; seeing my self-composed title across the top of my papers and watching my timer reach ten minutes with the completion of the last line of my monologue; filing the trunk of my parents' car with props that set the scene of my performance; taking trips to different colleges in the area and carrying piles of textbooks from the library to my car; finding costumes for my performance and suddenly transforming into a person of such grandeur and inspiration. It is genuinely inspiring.
I think it is important to get involved in History Day because it fosters an environment of learning well beyond what is taught in the classroom. The skills that students will obtain from participating (whether they place in the top three or not) are life changing. You use the skills from History Day in everything that you do past high school. You become more academically and socially advanced. You learn to be more confident. You learn to accept change as a way to improve. You learn to love history.
Today, when people see History Day under my achievements on my resume, I am always so excited to tell them about it!
- Guada Mary Benoit
Connecticut History Day Participant 2014-2017
Connecticut History Day Judge
Team CT heads to the National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in a little over a week. This is always one of my favorite times of year as at the National Contest I have the opportunity to get to know the Connecticut students, families, and teachers and to hear more about some of the amazing work that students have done. It's inspiring to be with these bright and articulate young people.
Right after the State Contest, we held a "Going to Nationals" workshop and I was amazed at the breadth of topics. I read about an important Indian court case involving Shah Bano; viewed a performance about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire; watched a documentary about the 1992 Watts Truce that was enacted between two rival gangs following the L.A. riots, to name a few projects.
Connecticut students (and their parents and teachers) should be incredibly proud of their hard work. At the State Contest, I heard many longtime judges and teachers express their belief that the quality of projects continues to increase every year. We are so grateful to the hundreds of teachers who support the program and work with the students.
This year, thousands of middle and high school students across the state completed a History Day project related to the theme of Triumph & Tragedy in History. Whether or not a student received an award, every student was a winner just by going through the process of researching and creating a project. As a 2011 study on the impact of National History Day on students found, participants gain valuable skills that make them ready for their futures.
Connecticut students do amazing things! We love to share some of the amazing experiences students have during History Day, such as meeting someone connected to their topic or visiting a historic site. We encourage you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your student's History Day experience.
We encourage you to cheer on Team CT during the National Contest which takes place from June 9-13th. Follow us on the Connecticut History Day Facebook page and watch the Awards Ceremony on Thursday, June 13th. Look for more information on how to watch via social media!
It was the fall of 2000. I had just been hired as the Enrichment Teacher at Mansfield Middle School. I had never heard of “History Day,” as my colleagues called it, but it had a long history at the school. Dan, the person who had brought it to the school and who had managed it for more than a decade made it clear that he wanted to turn it over to me. When one is new at a school, and working in a position that is not mandated by state law, it’s a very good idea to say yes to lots of things, so I said yes.
I have never been a fan of contests. In my experience most of them are little more than variations on “Jeopardy”- kids prepping by studying to answer lots of fact-based questions. Those that go beyond that are frequently much too bound by restrictive rules and “guidelines.” I was less than enthusiastic.
Dan told me a little about NHD and gave me some information from CT History Day to read.
It quickly became obvious that this was not Jeopardy! It was also not overly bound. There was plenty of room for student choice and student creativity.
I was drawn in by the fact that the yearly topic was very open ended, allowing students to choose a project that would be very much interest based, and not necessarily tied in any way to curriculum; a sports minded student or group could do a project related to sports; same with music; same with just about any subject. I was drawn farther in when I read that kids could work alone, or work in groups of up to five people. I was yet farther drawn in when I saw that there were, at that time, nine different ways in which they could present their project, four for groups, five for individuals. And I was completely drawn in when I saw that the focus was on research, which was at the very heart of the project.
It was now clear to me that any student who decided to do a History Day project was committing to a great deal of high-level, research based work. I couldn’t say yes quickly enough!
I told Dan I would be happy to take this on but that I would undoubtedly need to call on him during my first year as there were bound to be lots of things I didn’t have answers to. He made it clear that he was happy to work with me as a partner on this as long as I took on the official role of coordinator and took care of the paperwork, supervised the projects, and did the rest of the day to day things involved in making History Day work. It turned out that whenever I needed him, he was there.
In late November, armed with lots of information that was very new to me, I arranged to meet with grades 6-8, one grade at a time, to introduce History Day to the students and to hopefully recruit some interested kids. I prepared a PowerPoint and made my presentations. Little did I know that the kids were very familiar with this contest, and that there was a lot of interest, and even enthusiastic anticipation within the student body.
When my presentations were finished and I collected the sign up information, I found that we had LOTS of students ready, and more than ready to participate.
I worked with the teachers at the various grade levels and arranged for times during the week when students could be excused from Social Studies class in order to come to the “Interest Center,” (my room) to work on History Day. I also kept my room open during lunch and “X Block,” (It’s complicated. Let’s just say that rather than recess, my school had a 48 minute block at lunch time when students could choose for themselves which room they would go to, to do music, P. E., art, or to work with a particular teacher.) and kept my room open after school on Mondays through Thursdays so that participants could come in to work on their projects.
Kids showed up. Not every student and group completed their History Day project that first year, but there were surprisingly few that dropped out of the contest, even though the school had set up a way for students to do that fairly painlessly.
We continued to work through December, January, February, and into March. I did regular check ins with every group and individual. My school held an unofficial “Local History Day,” when students presented their work to other students, parents, and anyone else interested. This was held about a week or two before District History Day. It went well and it was well attended.
Off we went to District History Day in Willington. We did very well. 19 of our students, most working in groups, finished in the top three, which meant that they would go on to CT History Day in Hartford.
In early May we went to Hartford. Dan told me that with so many students at the state level it was entirely possible that two or three might go on to the National Contest. Several times in the past he had taken a student or two to the University of Maryland for the national event.
CT History Day was a fun day. Our kids presented well, and Dan or I, sometimes both of us, managed to be in the audience for every presentation by our students. That afternoon the winners were announced. Mansfield Middle School managed to place eleven students either first or second, which meant we would need to figure out a way to get those eleven, with chaperones, to the University of Maryland for the national contest. This involved having them stay in college dorms from arrival on Sunday through the contest award presentation on Thursday.
The CT History Day event was held on a Saturday. When we got back to school on Monday morning Dan and I met with our school Principal to give her the great news/bad news. The great news was that so many of our students had done so well. The bad news was that this was going to cost a good deal of money, much of it coming from the school’s budget, and that one teacher or more would need to be away from school for four days in June.
We talked it all through and came up with a plan. One thing that worked in our favor was the fact that I had a bus driver’s license. In the end we decided that I would drive us to the University of Maryland. So bright and early on the Sunday morning in question we loaded 11 students, two moms, and all of our luggage and NHD gear onto the fourteen passenger school bus. I climbed into the driver’s seat, and off we went!
We arrived in Maryland late in the afternoon, registered, found a place to park the bus, and found our dorm. Much to our dismay we were placed in a dorm that was NOT air conditioned! It was a long four days (and nights). Despite that, we had a wonderful time, presenting our projects, visiting some local attractions (we were about 15 minutes from D. C.), hanging out in the dorm and around the campus… The students made lots of new friends from all over the U.S., in and around the Student Union and at the NHD sponsored dance.
On Thursday at the award ceremony, we found that one of our students had won the prize for best project from Connecticut! We had packed the bus before the ceremony so as soon as it ended, we were on our way home. We arrived home in the evening. I’m not sure about the students but I know I did a lot of extra sleeping over the following few days.
I coordinated History Day at Mansfield Middle School from 2000-2010, when I retired from teaching middle school. During those years I went to the Nationals eight times, sent a mom and her son once. Only once did we send no one to the national contest. Since my retirement I have judged at both Regional and State level every year.
There were years when our school had more than 100 students participating in NHD. There were some truly outstanding projects, many very good ones, and some that were less than wonderful. I have no doubts that every student who participated in History Day came away learning so many things- how to do effective high level research, how to plan time through the course of a long project, how to make decisions in a group situation, how to make critical choices regarding what to include, how much to include, and what to leave out, and so very much more.
I absolutely believe that every student becomes a better student through participating in NHD. The way the contest is set up makes that inevitable. Long live National History Day!
Wayne Trembly is a retired teacher and the former Connecticut History Day Coordinator for Mansfield Middle School.
This weekend kicks off contest season for Connecticut History Day! Students attending the New Haven Contest at Southern Connecticut State University will have their projects judged by educators, history professionals, alumni, and volunteers as they share their projects about Triumph and Tragedy in History. At the end of the day, the first round of students will know if they are heading to the State Contest in May.
Whether this is your first contest season or your last, there are always tips on how to get the most out of contest day. Regional Contests aren’t just about presenting your project. This is your chance to meet new friends, experience new things, and interact with others who are passionate about history. Below you can find information and tips on what to expect on contest day and what you can do to get the most out of it.
What to Expect
When you arrive at your regional contest, there will be some parts that are the same for every student across the state. You'll check in for the contest and attend the Welcome Ceremony, you'll present your project, and you'll have the chance to view other student work. Each contest has a variety of other opportunities for students to take advantage of as well.
At each contest, students can:
Some contests may have other opportunities available for students as well such as:
The opportunities are not the only reason why you are at the contest though. Depending on what your project is, you are expected to bring:
Along with presenting your Exhibit, Performance, Documentary, Website or Paper, you also will go through an interview about your project. This is one of the things that students get most nervous about. Judges are excited to meet students and learn more about your research. Remember, you are not judged on your interview. Try to relax and enjoy sharing about your work!
Tips for Making the Most of Your Contest
There is a lot to do on a contest day. There can also be a lot of down time between when you arrive, present your project, and the closing ceremony. To make the most of your day, make sure to take advantage of the opportunities listed above and consider the tips listed below.
On contest day, consider bringing the following with you:
During contest day, we recommend that you:
Contest day is all about what you make of it. So have fun and enjoy your time at Connecticut History Day!
As we get closer and closer to the first Regional Connecticut History Day contest for the year, students should be well into the creation of their papers, websites, performances, exhibits, or documentaries. There is always room to further research though and dig deeper into a topic. Since the start of the year, we’ve shared some resources from around the world and around the country for students to use while researching. Today, we’re taking a look at what is available right here at home! Connecticut has dozens of resources available for students to use when conducting research for their history day projects. As always, these are not the only resources available to students and we would love to know what resources your classes are using! Make sure to share with us by emailing your class favorites to email@example.com.
The resources listed below are available online or in person. Addresses for the physical locations of these resources are listed.
Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut
405 Babbidge Road, Unit 1205, Storrs, CT
The Dodd Reasearch Center is home to Archives and Special Collections at UConn. While students can visit the Center in person, many of the collections are available online through their digital repository. The collections available range from information on Connecticut Business to local history, politics and public affairs and much more.
Connecticut State Library
231 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT
The Connecticut State Library offers resources for researching just about everything related to the state. From colonial records to Native American research and beyond, they have it all. The State Library also has a large digital collection that students can use to view books, diaries, journals, photographs, and more to help with their research and project development.
Connecticut Historical Society
1 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, CT
CHS offers online and in person access to their archives. Through their website, students can go through online catalogs and find helpful guides to finding manuscripts and other resources. Students can also visit the Waterman Research Center at the Historical Society to view items in person. Information and regulations for visiting the Waterman Research Center are available here.
Across Connecticut, there are many more museums, historical society, and research centers that can help students learn more about their topics and aid their research. Visit the Connecticut Resources section of the Connecticut History Day website for more!
Several years ago, when I was teaching a Modern World History lesson about Louis XIV, one of my students realized that she had actually visited his palace as a child. She eagerly shared with her peers her memories of its size and the endless gardens on the property. Up until that point, students sat quietly listening to my presentation and taking notes. Yet, once a fellow classmate made a personal connection, the excitement was so contagious that everyone wanted to learn more about her trip. My student’s realization was every teacher’s dream; she was able to use a personal experience to develop a deeper understanding of the course content. Turning that dream into a reality in the classroom is no easy task, though! Since many of our students will not visit the faraway places that they study in their history classes, we need to find creative approaches to build authentic experiences into the curriculum.
When I had the opportunity to teach a high school capstone course that centered around the Connecticut History Day project, I knew that I needed to provide students with opportunities to extend their learning beyond the classroom walls. More specifically, I wanted to motivate students to continue learning about their project topics after the bell rang to end class each day. Rather than hand out a list of research requirements on the first day of class (there is no fun there!), I tried a different approach by creating a set of voluntary “challenge projects” that students could complete throughout the semester. Assignments included tasks such as visiting museums or historical societies, reading outside texts, interviewing individuals, or even developing student-proposed projects. Since these assignments were voluntary, I did not grade them. In fact, if students did not complete them, their averages were not penalized in any way. If students did choose to complete at least two of them (and fulfilled the assignment criteria), they were eligible to receive honors credit for the course. By the end of the semester, over half of the class had turned in at least two projects, and all of students were able to integrate their work into their actual History Day projects. The “laid back” format worked so well that I ended up using it in an elective course that I taught the following semester.
I was most surprised with students’ resourcefulness as they engaged in their work, particularly when it came to interviewing individuals. Overwhelmingly, students realized that the real “experts” were the people who lived through the events they were studying. Students were able to connect a woman who was a teenager in East Berlin in the 1980s, a police officer who worked at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks, and a survivor of the Stonewall Riots. One student summed up his interview perfectly: “It was a different experience compared to when I read about how citizens felt by reading database articles or websites.…I was able to get a better idea of what she was dealing with and thinking because I was talking to an actual person who lived through it.” I often reserved a few minutes of class time each day for students to share exciting news related to their research. Without a doubt, when students heard success stories like that one, they became more motivated to step outside their own comfort zones and initiate their own interviews.
At the beginning of the semester, my class visited Rebecca Taber-Conover at the Old State House to learn more about the History Day project as well as the history of the building itself. While we were there, Rebecca shared examples of projects from past years, many of which included the types of authentic research that I was asking my own students to undertake in their challenge projects. Consequently, students started off the course with some clear models of how their research might “come together” at the end of the course. Furthermore, they were able to see firsthand how much they were able to learn about U.S. history just from an hour-long visit to a historic site. A class-wide “site-based experience” was a great way to kick-off the course and get students excited about beginning their own research.
If you are just starting out doing the History Day project with your classes, I definitely recommend that you build your own form of “challenge projects” into your class. Many topics in history have connections to Connecticut, so your students might be surprised at the resources that are available so close to home. Most importantly, students will realize that history is so much more than a list of names and dates that they read online; it is their interpretation of that information based on who they are, where they live, the people they meet, and stories they uncover.
Joseph Marangell is the social studies coordinator for East Haven Public Schools.
History Day is all about students picking a topic that interests them and becoming an expert in that topic. By this point, students should be deep into the research part of their project. For those who still need some assistance, we’ve been collecting resources to help students through this process. Recently, we shared our U.S. History resources. This week, we’re taking a look at some world history resources. Again, these are not the only resources available to students and we would love to know what resources your classes are using! Make sure to share with us by emailing your class favorites to firstname.lastname@example.org.
World Digital Library
Created by the Library of Congress with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the World Digital Library offers thousands of digital resources for students to use. The WDL includes interactive timelines of world history, United States History, and World War I; interactive maps; and themes are a few certain topics that give an in-depth look at a topic.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress doesn’t just focus on U.S. History. In its collections, the LOC provides country studies for numerous places around the world along with related content to those studies. The country studies in the collection were written by multidisciplinary teams of social scientists. The collection also includes studies of countries that no longer exist but could be useful for certain topics such as Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Soviet Union, Sudan, and Yugoslavia.
Created by Brigham Young University, EuroDocs provides open access to documents from throughout European history—even back to Prehistoric and Ancient Europe! This tool can help students further their research by country, time period, and topic.
The British Museum
While you may not be able to travel to England to visit The British Museum, you can take an online field trip! The British Museum offers all sorts of different research tools for students to use during their research. They can view over four million objects from the museum’s collection, browse through their online library, use their online research catalog.
For more ideas on where to look online for research, students can visit NHD.org and look through their helpful research links tab. National History Day has collected dozens of websites for different organizations, museums, libraries, and more to help with student research.
I come to Connecticut History Day not as a student, not as an educator, but as a parent. My role has evolved over the last six years as I have gained perspective on how to best support, encourage, and maintain expectation with my daughter Lindsay, who is passionate about history and passionate about History Day.
A bit of background. Lindsay began participating in the performance category of History Day in 6th grade. She was introduced to CHD through the Quest Program as Sedgwick Middle School, under the guidance of her teacher, Jennifer Hunt. As 2019 starts, Lindsay is now in 11th grade and about to participate for the 6th time. That first year, I'll be honest, I had no idea what History Day was about. Lindsay largely conducted her research and wrote her script as school. All I knew was that she needed a few props for her "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" performance and the date she was to perform. We arrived in Torrington and I was shocked. Shocked by both the level of talent and the level of competition. Based on her amazing experience that day, Connecticut History Day soon became on integral part of our life.
I have learned that my job as a parent is to provide Lindsay with support in three different areas. The first is access. Access to the tools and resources she needs to create a successful CHD project. That can take different forms. For example, the year Lindsay did a performance on Peggy Shippen Arnold, Benedict Arnold's wife, we spent Columbus Day driving around the Benedict Arnold Trail in Norwich and New London. We visited Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, the Ebenezer Avery Historic House, Fort Trumbull, and visited the grave site of Col. William Ledyard who was killed during the siege. Providing her access to be in the physical spaces where history took places provides her with the ability to create her own picture and thoughts.
My next job, after her research is largely complete and she has begun to write the script, is to listen and encourage. Listen to her thoughts about the script, how she wants to stage the performance. Ask questions to further narrow down her topic, to get her to clarify exactly what she wishes to convey. This can be challenging. She does not always want to hear my opinion, even when asked. In the end though, it is her decision, it is her project. I am here to be a sounding board.
My last job is to manage expectations. This has been the hardest area for me and I have become better at it as the years have gone on. As a parent, you always want your child to do well, to win the medal, to move on to the next level, but that doesn't always happen. It took Lindsay four years to win at the State Contest in the performance category and move on to Nationals, a goal she set for herself back in the 6th grade. In the first three years, she would get close but not move on. I can tell you there were many tears shed. She had to learn that she can't always win. She had to learn how to be graceful and supportive of those who did win. She had to learn that winning does not define her or her work. Not easy concepts to process even as an adult. She has learned to take the good with the bad and look at CHD as a journey, not individual events.
CHD has provided Lindsay with a world of opportunities and given her the skills and experiences that will help her all throughout her life. I truly feel she has an edge as she moves forward to college. She knows how to research, manage her time, create clear and effective projects, and can confidently present them to others. CHD has given her direction and has further fueled her love of the past and its lessons for the future. As a mom, I couldn't be happier.
Lisel Moynihan is a long time Connecticut History Day parent, supporting her daughter, Lindsay.