Many of you who are already in the program realize that History Day is one way to do all of the above. To do a good History Day project, a student (or a group of students) must work in all four dimensions of the C3 framework. They must develop a good question about the subject they are studying (Dimension 1), come up with a plan to analyze the subject and choose necessary resources (Dimension 2), carefully and critical analyze documents and they come up with an answer to their question (Dimension 3) and “report out” on their findings (Dimension 4). Some teachers claim that the inquiry process as outlined in the C3 frameworks is more about skills that content: I disagree. To conduct an inquiry project students need to utilize critical literacy and social studies skills throughout the process. However, I would argue that the content that students acquire through inquiry is rich and meaningful. If you are just starting out with History Day, use the C3 frameworks as a guide: they will be very helpful.
Having students research topics related to Connecticut and your own town is a great way to introduce students to the study of these topics. If you don’t know much about Connecticut history there are many people that do. Oftentimes, your school’s media person/librarian can be a great resource to help find materials on locally-related topics. In addition, you should, without a doubt, contact your town’s historical society. Many individuals that work there are incredibly knowledgeable, and oftentimes historical societies can point you to the exact resources you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people working at historical societies: they ABSOLUTELY want you to.
From my perspective, the value of History Day is enormous. You will see projects that you cannot believe were created by middle school or high school students. More importantly, through History Day you can see students who were never “fans” of the study of history become engaged and energized because they are researching a topic that they can relate to. If you are not yet involved in History Day, start now! You will absolutely benefit your students by doing so.
Social Studies Consultant, Connecticut Department of Education