Four themes, four projects, four years. From “Turning Points” in 2013 to “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange” in 2016, History Day has served as a gateway to a new era of history and rich academic growth with each project I completed.
While you’ll certainly learn plenty about whatever topic you choose to pursue, you will also have some larger conclusions to draw about the contest in general. Although each History Day experience is different, here are some of my Yearly Lessons and Takeaways:
History Day has an undeniably distinctive environment. Its grounds are rich with contagious enthusiasm, exceptional diligence, and, of course, an intense love for history. When you begin your research, you have the capacity to dive deeply into the metaphorical world of your topic. Make sure that you fully embrace this. History Day allows you to devote yourself to a field of your choice and explore history more thoroughly than you could in any high school project.
That being said, this all may seem daunting if you have never done anything like it before in your classes. From my experience, however, History Day provides the best opportunity to expand beyond what’s familiar and comfortable in order to ultimately learn invaluable research and analytical skills.
For the theme of “Rights and Responsibility” in 9th grade, I chose to create a project on China’s One-Child policy. While it was amazing to research a topic that was so personal to me, I quickly found that, despite its prevalence, I had trouble finding resources that addressed my particular approach on the topic. Unfortunately, I found that many of the documents I was looking for were either written in Chinese without any reliable translation available or were not easily accessible due to my location. After realizing how limited I had been by my topic, I resolved that it would be best to stick to local topics in the future.
Although we may not always be aware of it, Connecticut truly has a rich history and a beautiful character to it. It’s also extremely rewarding to be able to learn about the world immediately around you—sometimes just the proximity of a particular topic can make its history much more tangible as well. When I chose to research Griswold v. Connecticut and the right to privacy and contraception, I was welcomed with an array of resources readily available in libraries, archives, and historical societies all throughout the state. Connecticut’s resources were abounding.
Every year, History Day students scour through museum basements and online databases searching for the perfect resources for their projects. Although it was incredible to scan Joseph Pulitzer’s personal papers and rare interviews with Estelle Griswold, I ultimately found that the Connecticut History Day community was by far the most important resource that endured the most throughout all four of my years. As cheesy as it is, I’m extremely grateful to the various workshops and resources hosted by the Connecticut History Day throughout the year, those at the Connecticut Public Affairs Network who run the program, as well as other participants who spent hours giving me feedback on my project. Each of them challenged me to go further and grow beyond what I previously imagined was possible.
Throughout all four years, History Day consistently served as an important source of growth for me. Though you may be thrilled to discover the connection between yellow journalism and immigration in the early 1900s or that Griswold v. Connecticut served as the prelude to Roe v. Wade, don’t forget about some of the more general and overarching things you will learn about community and historical research as well.
I wish you the best of luck with all your projects! What will you learn?