A message from your friends at Connecticut History Day...
Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing research resources for students to use to further their research for History Day. Please feel free to share your resources with us by emailing email@example.com.
Historical research requires discipline, perseverance, and the ability to analyze and evaluate information. Nowhere are these skills more important than when conducting that research online (where significant amounts of fraudulent or misleading information can be found). But the Internet can be an excellent research tool when used appropriately and has brought previously unimaginable degrees of convenience to the research process. So where should students go to find the information they need and how can this information be evaluated to ensure its credibility?
Search engines are usually the first stop in any student’s research, but the manner in which the searches are conducted may not always produce optimal results. Students should be encouraged to use concise wording in their searches, and then based on the results, refine or broaden their searches to increase the likelihood of success. For example, a search targeting “earthquakes” in Connecticut might be made more complete through the inclusion of terms such as “seismic activity” or “natural disasters.” Even changing one or two words in a search can make a big difference in what information is brought to light.
It should also be noted that students need to look beyond the results produced by their favorite search engine. Not only does the Internet provide multiple free search engines (all of which may produce different results), but there are also research databases and reliable websites that may direct students to some of their most rewarding finds. A small sample of these resources include ConnecticutHistory.org (https://connecticuthistory.org/), the National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/), the Connecticut State Library (https://ctstatelibrary.org/), the Connecticut Digital Archive (https://ctdigitalarchive.org/), the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/), and the Smithsonian Institute (https://www.si.edu/). Additional local resources can be found at museums, historical societies, and at history and heritage organizations across Connecticut.
Libraries can be great centers for digital research. Many libraries are free and open to the public and their digital resources may include online catalogs of their collections, academic journal subscriptions, and numerous specialized research databases. In addition, just because students are conducting their research online doesn’t mean they should remove human interaction from the equation. Librarians are trained to navigate research collections and know how to find information both on- and offline in ways most people don’t. A consultation with a local librarian can be an invaluable step toward discovering information a student probably didn’t know existed.
Evaluating information can be one of the hardest parts of conducting research, especially online, where information (and misinformation) are so readily available. There are numerous questions a student can ask about a resource when evaluating the reliability of its information. These include, but are not limited to:
Lastly, a student should be able to verify a “fact” in multiple resources. It is important to get information from several different sources offering varying perspectives and not just rely on the “loudest” voice on the Internet.
Gregg Mangan is an author, historian, and the managing editor of the ConnecticutHistory.org project at Connecticut Humanities.
When you think of History Day, what comes to mind? Intricate exhibits, engaging performances, compelling documentaries… while the products are what we see publicly in History Day, they represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. These products, to be effective, must be built on a strong backbone of research.
Research has the reputation of being dull and tedious, the less glamorous precursor to project creation. But just as you cannot build a house without a foundation, you cannot create a project without the context, content knowledge, and perspectives that come from research.
So how can teachers make research both engaging and successful for students? Here are a few tips from my own experience:
Scaffold, Scaffold, Scaffold
Especially if you’re working with beginners (my school’s program starts in Grade 6), the practices of note-taking and annotating a bibliography might be entirely new. I create an electronic note guide for all groups to customize, including spaces for source citations, annotations, and paraphrased notes. This takes away the "how" in the research process so students can focus on the "what".
Teach Time Management and Chunking
Our History Day program lasts from late November until the March contests. I create assignments and deadlines every two weeks to help students manage and pace the workload involved in History Day. This also allows me to provide feedback and revision ideas throughout the process.
Bring Research to Life
This could be as simple as a visit to your school or town library to find print sources. I’ve also found tremendous value in visiting a nearby university with students- we conduct research at the archives and in the library. The students always report feeling so grown-up and accomplished after these outing. You’re never far from a college or university in Connecticut, so take advantage of these troves of academia.
Encourage “Round” Research
I find many students have the tendency to learn eight gazillion details about their topics without proper context. The best projects involve what I call “round” research that is far from tunnel-visioned. If you’re researching an author, what similar authors preceded her? How was she similar to or different from other authors of her time? What was the impact of her work? Who praised and criticized her? It’s important for educators to guide students in researching context and multiple perspectives as sometimes students can see learning context as a pesky detour on the road to amassing knowledge on a single topic.
Research can be difficult and frustrating. “It’s like fishing,” sixth-grader Catherine says. Not all sources are useful. Sometimes, like a fisherman, you find a source and come up empty-handed in terms of relevant information. Research takes time and patience, and the reward of the medals and interviews seems far away. The more you can teach students to acknowledge and persevere through the research stages the better they’ll be. I use this as an opportunity to discuss short versus long term rewards, and this distinction and awareness can be applied well beyond History Day.
Thorough research provides the roots to ground a flowering project in rich soil. My final tip is to model enthusiasm and excitement yourself. If you act like an explorer on a hunt, your students will follow suit.
Jenn McMunn is a Connecticut History Day teacher and former coordinator for the Mansfield Regional Contest.
One of the most important elements of a history day project is that students need to show how their topic fits within the historical context around it. History doesn’t just happen. It is influenced by people, events, politics, society, innovations, and more. As students move from researching their topic to shaping their project, here are some ways for them to think about historical context.
Background Events- No event happens without something leading to it. Students should look at what events, societal changes, or innovations happened in the years before their topic. Think about how the Treaty of Versailles led to the start of World War II. Or how the enacting of new acts and taxes on the colonies led to the American Revolution.
Social Context- What was the social environment like at the time? Students should consider what the social norms were at the time. For example, how did racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement?
Intellectual or Scientific Context- How do or did experts understand your topic? Students should think about how people thought at the time and what technologies were available. What did scientists believe about the transmission of diseases? What did people think of the world around them?
Cultural Context- What were the cultural norms at the time? Students should examine how society viewed and expected people to behave. What were the prevailing views on women’s place? What behaviors were considered appropriate or inappropriate? Who was allowed to have certain jobs or be in certain places?
Economic Context- How did the economy shape people’s lives and choices? Think about how people had to live during the Great Depression or Germany before World War II.
Other Contexts- Students should try to identify other contexts that are relevant to their topics. These may not be the same for every student.
For most students, they will find that their topic will be the result of a response or reaction, or attempt to change the circumstances of the time. Understanding historical context will help your students best describe changes over time and identify the long and short term consequences and outcomes of their topic.
Modified with permission from Utah History Day’s Historical Context: Sets the Stage.
"I keep six honest serving men. (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who." - Rudyard Kipling
For most students participating in the Connecticut History Day program, this is their first experience in conducting in-depth research. Our students become young detectives of history, who are on a mission to solve a historical puzzle of their own choice. They are challenged to go beyond the internet and their comfort zone, to find primary and secondary materials that will support and defend their thesis statement. As teachers, we challenge them to explore each perspective of an issue and gain historical background of the time period they chose to learn about. It is extremely important for the students to understand and present the information in historical context. For most students, this is a daunting task and requires them to take baby steps to reach their goal to be successful. At the conclusion of their research, they must be able to analyze and synthesize materials to form a strong thesis statement and defend it.
One of the first steps students should take at the beginning of the research process is to write strong research questions that help direct their research. Experienced researchers know that the answer to one question generally leads to more questions. History is a puzzle with many answers and solutions. Two students can be researching the same topic and will discover completely different information and perspectives as they proceed. Researching becomes a historic treasure hunt to try to find answers and solutions to what happened in the past. The hunt is what generates excitement for students and keeps their interest throughout this long process. They may uncover materials and information that surprise them, and in some cases may reveal shocking realities of the past. Almost always, new materials generate new questions, and so the process continues.
Recently I attended a workshop presented by National Geographic, at the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies conference. The speaker was explaining their Geo-Inquiry Process, which has a scientific connection. As I sat there and listened and viewed the materials distributed, I immediately thought of the connection to History Day! This questioning model is transferable to the NHD research process as well. The National Geographic program asks students to follow a five-step process which includes:
Our students are basically following the same steps, only using a historical lens to conduct their research. The NHD model looks like this:
In each program, the first step requires students to write a strong research question. A strong research question asks students to think about their topic in a historical context.
For example, a student who may be researching the D-Day invasion of Normandy will discover that the date, time, and location for the surprise attack were all very well planned, with a definite purpose to each mission. There was not one plan, but several, with multiple backup plans that considered all problems that could arise during the collective missions. Each country and participant had a specific role in the main mission. What was the role of each? How was it decided who would carry out a specific mission? Most likely, students will discover multiple answers to the same question, before moving onto the next step of their research process, which is; analyze the materials they found and draw conclusions.
To assist my students with writing research questions, I created a worksheet based on the Geo-Inquiry Process, developed by National Geographic. The worksheet is set up to test the student’s initial research question. If they can successfully answer the question in the box correctly, then they move on to the next box. If they do not have a correct answer, they are directed to return to their original question and rewrite it to make it stronger. Students continue to proceed down the list of eight questions until they reach the last box, which will direct the student to begin their research. I am attaching the worksheet I created to this blog for teachers and students to use when writing their own research questions.
Please remind students that the research process is constantly demanding historians to ask more questions. Most of the time, one question will lead to others. That is what makes researching a puzzle. Students are young detectives of history, who uncover multiple answers, and very often they will find, answers only lead to more questions!
Sharon Wlodarczyk is a longtime Connecticut History Day teacher and has had several national winners over the years. She is a teacher in Region 15. Sharon has participated in the NHD Normandy Institute and served as a NHD Teacher Ambassador.
By now, most Connecticut History Day students have chosen a topic and are in the throes of research. It's important to make sure your students stay focused and ensure their project relates to the 2019 National History Day (NHD) theme of Triumph & Tragedy in History.
One way to help students make the connection between their research and the NHD Theme is to remind students' of the definitions of each word.
Triumph: A victory or conquest by or as if by military force of notable success.
A triumph is an achievement and has impact, but encourage students to think beyond military history. There are many examples of triumphs in environmental, scientific, legal, cultural, political and artistic history. It is important to remember is that a triumph is not always a positive event.
Tragedy: A disastrous event.
Tragedies can be man-made or natural disasters. But more than likely, a tragedy is the result of the actions of people. Students should ask themselves: Who was impacted by the tragedy? Why was it a tragedy? What caused the tragedy?
The two most frequent questions we hear about this year's theme of Triumph & Tragedy in History are:
The majority of topics will have elements of triumph and tragedy in them, but those elements are often not 50/50. The theme words do not have to be treated equally in a project. Additionally, students should follow the history with the 2019 NHD theme. In other words, it does not matter the order in which they address triumph and/ or tragedy.
Students might not yet know how their topic connects to the theme but those connections will become clearer as students keep researching. It is important that students look at one event from multiple points of view. A triumph for one person or group can often be a tragedy for another.
Have them consider how triumph leads to tragedy or how tragedy leads to triumph. For many topics, the triumph and tragedy was most likely caused by the actions of people. Students need to ask questions about who and why. As students make the connections between their topic and the theme of Triumph & Tragedy in History make sure that they avoid “what-if” history and instead show their topic’s impact.
In a decade of working with NHD, one of the things I notice most frequently is that students fail to make a clear connection between their projects and the NHD annual theme. Sometimes theme words are used in a cursory fashion, but it’s important that students clearly show the connection and make that argument easy for a viewer to understand.
Information courtesy of NHD in Minnesota, written for Connecticut History Day by Rebecca Taber-Conover, State Coordinator.
Participating in National History Day has helped to prepare me for college in several ways, even as engineering major. Doing deep research on one topic has allowed me to work on a few important skills that are applicable in many contexts. I have learned a lot about effectively managing my time and analyzing the widespread impact of events. My first semester in college, I took a history class that involved a lot of writing. We were asked to compare the events that lead to the rise and fall of democracy in a few different countries. I was able to apply the skills I learned from History Day to this assignment, specifically being able to evaluate the broader impact of an event as opposed to the discrete event itself. Time management is also important as a busy college student. History Day taught me to space out my work, which has been very helpful when I have several exams or essays within a span of a couple of days.
My advice for History Day competitors is that topic selection is critical. Pick a topic that really interests you, since you could be working on it for the whole school year, and approach it with a unique angle. For example, one year I researched Albert Pope and realized his contributions to bicycle manufacturing also had an impact on women’s freedoms. Dig deep and ask others for feedback on your approach, content, project, etc. In middle school I brought my Hartford Circus Fire exhibit into school and set up a feedback sheet for students and teachers. You would be surprised how small tweaks can really make a difference in driving home your points. For exhibits, incorporate one thing that makes your exhibit stand out. For the Hartford Circus fire, my exhibit was a tent. Tri-folds are effective, too, and for Albert Pope, I used a bicycle tire to outline the center part of my analysis. History Day is ultimately about the research, but having an element on your exhibit to draw people in, to spend time reading your exhibit, really helps.
This semester, I have enrolled in another history elective. Even as a biomedical engineering/materials science and engineering major, I will always have a little bit of a history buff in me thanks to History Day.
Sam Porcello competed in Connecticut History Day from 2011-2015. During those years, Sam won prizes at the National History Day competition in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015. He is currently a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and is studying materials science and engineering.
A message from your friends at the Connecticut History Day State Office...
As students begin the process of selecting their topics for History Day 2019, they may feel overwhelmed at their choices. We invited a current CHD student, Lindsay Meyers, to talk about her experience and to share her thoughts on picking a topic-- especially a local one!
Picking a topic for your History Day project can be a stressful but exciting experience. There are over a million great topics but choosing just one can be very difficult. My first piece of advice on choosing a topic is to make sure that you enjoy what you’re researching. Find a topic that includes your interests. For example, along with history, I have a strong passion for science. My past two years, I did topics relating to science, so I got to do lots of historical research, and learn more about different scientific fields.
Finding a local topic may seem daunting, but it is actually really easy. The first thing I always do when searching for a local topic is research about my town, to see if there were any historical events that occurred that may relate to the theme. I also look back at all of my notes from my history class. A lot of my past history teachers would include a common historical figure or event that had an impact on my town or the state. This actually helped me find my topic for 2016’s theme: Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange. My middle school was named Rochambeau Middle School, after the French general that aided Washington during the Revolutionary War. In class we were learning about American history, and had a lesson in depth about Rochambeau. I found out that Rochambeau had actually camped with his army in my town, not too far from my house! I did some more research on my own, and found that he would be a great topic for the theme.
One benefit about choosing a local topic is the abundance of sources that are very close. The archive at the state library contained many letters and primary documents from Rochambeau, that helped my research immensely. I was able to get to see these real documents, and not have to travel far!
If these two steps do not help you find a local topic or a topic that interests you, ask your friends, family, peers, and teachers, if they know of any interesting people or stories that may relate to the theme. During the 2017 theme: Taking a Stand in History, my sisters and I struggled to choose a topic. We asked our parents about some people who took a stand in history, and my mom told us the story of our grandmother. My grandmother created the National Organization of Rare Diseases, (NORD), a worldwide organization that helps treat and aid people with rare diseases, such as Tourette. My sisters and I were quickly intrigued, and called our grandmother to learn more about her story. After hearing her incredible story, we realized how it connected to the theme, and chose our grandmother as our topic.
Don’t be afraid to pick topics that are not commonly known! My grandmother and NORD had never been done as a history day topic before, so getting to be one of the first person to research and present it made me very excited! It may be hard to find resources at first, but that’s what makes it fun. You get to be one of the first people to research the topic and analyze all of the sources for others to use in the future.
I hope that this will help you choose a topic for this year! Best of luck to everyone!
Are you feeling a little overwhelmed about helping your students with their History Day journey? We are here to help! Here at the state office, we're offering two special workshops and have CHD staff and volunteers who are excited to conduct a workshop in your classroom!
Upcoming Special Workshops:
Educator Workshop with NHD's Lynee O'Hara
Friday, October 12, 2018
Connecticut's Old State House
800 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103
Join National History Day's Director of Programs, Lynne O'Hara to delve into this year's theme of Triumph and Tragedy in History and learn strategies for coaching your History Day student. Participants will receive a free theme book and other materials. Paid parking is available at State House Square Garage (55 Market Street). Register HERE.
Connecticut History Day Kick-Off Workshop (for Teachers AND Students)
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut
405 Babbidge Road, Unit 1205. Storrs, CT 06269
Discuss this year's NHD theme of Triumph & Tragedy and brainstorm topic ideas with historians. Student participants will provide practical advice for enjoying the History Day experience and creating a successful project. Enjoy the opportunity to view some of the archives' treasures and learn about accessing primary documents with archivist Laura Smith. Register HERE.
Light refreshments will be served at the start of the workshop.
Can't make it to one of these special workshops? We can come to you! Schedule one of our FREE in-class workshops by calling (860)368-0738 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
History Day 101: Introduction to Connectiuct History Day
Get your students excited and prepared to participate in CHD! Discover the many opportunities for student choice and exploration by hearing form past student partiicpants and viewing projects from previous years.
NEW! Introducing the 2019 NHD Theme: Triumph & Tragedy in History
Explore this year's NHD theme of Triumph & Tragedy in History. Brainstorm topic ideas and discuss how to link topics with the theme.
History Day 102: Project Check-In
Are your students on track with their projects? Do they need suggestions for improving their research and project creation? A History Day educator will come to your classroom and meet with students, provide suggestions, and strategies for their CHD journey.
Learn more about available CHD in-class workshops HERE.
In addition to workshops, there are other resources available to educators and students!
Connecticut History Day Website
The 2019 NHD Theme Book, CHD Educators Handbook, 2019 List of Connecticut Topics, CHD Student Handbook, and the NHD Rule Book (in English and Spanish) are all available right here on the website! Check here (the CHD Blog) frequently as posts will be updated every couple of weeks. Look for posts from students, teachers, and others!
Both NHD and CHD have facebook pages. Follow them to see highlighted materials and get updates on the program!
National History Day Website
There are a ton of wonderful resources for teachers on the NHD website. Check out the series of videos for new teachers along with curriculum materials! Want to learn more about this year's theme? Check out materials exploring Triumph & Tragedy in History (including a webinar) HERE.
Don't feel overwhelmed or alone! Contact the State Office at (860)368-0738 or email Rebecca.Taber-Conover@CTPublicAffairsNetwork.org if you have questions or need assistance!
A message from Connecticut State Coordinator, Rebecca Taber-Conover...
Welcome back to Connecticut History Day! We are excited for another year working with you and your students.
Connecticut students do amazing things. Last year at the 2018 National Contest, CT students achieved amazing results.
As you know, Connecticut History Day is about a lot more than just winning a contest. Over 5,000 students throughout the state create a History Day Project. Students gain immensely from their participation developing vital critical thinking and research skills that will assist them as they move forward in life—in college, careers, and in citizenship.
We look forward to seeing the amazing projects students create this year!
Make sure to read part one of Brooks' story before continuing with Part 2!
One of my favorite research experiences for our NHD project this year was visiting the Nation to Nation exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. It took us several days to fully comb through this exhibition because of all the wonderful artifacts, documentaries, and text. This exhibition helped to answer some of the questions we had begun to encounter while in South Dakota.
Our Junior Group Performance, From Sea to Shining Sea: The Conflict of the Fort Laramie Treaties that Compromised American Values, reflected our attempt to give voice to the American Indians’ struggle to maintain their identity in the past, present and into the future, as had been promised to them through the yet unfulfilled Fort Laramie treaties.
When we won the Native American History Award we were honored but felt it was wrong to accept money because of the American Indians’ shocking living conditions. We decided we would donate the money we received back into the American Indian community. Through our research with the Lakota we found that the Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge reservation was one of the best schools for the Lakota children. Originally started by Chief Red Cloud in conjunction with the Jesuits, its mission is to teach both the Lakota culture and the white culture. We also learned that the teaching of the Lakota language has been an important element in bringing pride and self-respect back into the community. This is very important, particularly among the youth, as the Lakota have the highest teen suicide rate in the country. For these reasons, we felt it was important to use our Award to promote the Lakota language program at the Red Cloud Indian school.
I returned to Pine Ridge this summer, again with several thousand books, but this time I met with Tamatane l’atala, head of Lakota language and I was ecstatic to be able to tell him that our NHD team would be able to support his efforts. Tamatane is now teaching us Lakota through his web-based program and our NHD team has been invited to Pine Ridge during summer 2019 to see the results of our gift, to learn more Lakota, speak with the children and play soccer with them at summer camp!
He said, “It is truly humbling to have young people want to help with the language revitalization efforts. I look forward to hosting you all next summer and sharing our language with you and also showing you the finished products from your donation.” If we had not done so much research for this NHD project we would never have realized the implications that the past has had upon the present, nor which actions we can take today to improve the future for today’s Lakota children.
One of my highlights of my experience with the Wonderland BookSavers, and this NHD project in particular, is seeing the look on the children’s faces when they receive our books. Overall, NHD this year has been a truly wonderful experience because we got to learn so much about the American Indians and in the end we will get to contribute to them as well, and I speak for my team when I say that we are very honored to have received the Native American History Award.
Brooks Barry is a student at Pequot Homeschool. During the 2018 National History Day Contest, Brooks and his team won the Native American History Award for their group performance: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Conflict of the Fort Laramie Treaties that Compromised American Values.