Thursday, February 20, 2014

Putting the Finishing Touches on National History Day Projects

By Nina Kendall

                 National History Day (NHD) is a research competition for 6th - 12th grade students who complete primary and secondary source research based on a theme and produce a product that range from performances to papers.  Students then get an opportunity present their project and are interviewed by a panel of judges.  Whether you are concerned about common core, like history as inquiry, or want to incorporate more project based learning, NHD has something to offer every teacher, student, and classroom.  

I am a big fan of National History Day. Obvious, I know.  I recommend it to anyone who will listen. It was one of the greatest things I did as a student. It is one of the things I enjoy helping students with most each year.  For more than 10 years, I have watched students mature as learners, and gain confidence from experience.  It is rare to watch a student’s horizons broaden before your eyes but for my students NHD has done just that every year.

 At this time of year, students are finishing up their projects and preparing for regional or state competition.   After months of research, it is now time to prepare products for presentation.  Like many of my students, future participants are seeking advice.

General Advice and Suggestions for Reflection:

Ask yourself: What is my thesis? Is it clearly expressed in my project and process paper? If not, fix it now. Changes are easier the earlier you make them.

As you finalize the product have fun. Your project should share what you have learned, how it relates to the theme, and how fascinating you find it. People will respond to your interest in the subject.

Double check the rules. It will reassure you that you are on the right track.

Start the bibliography now if you haven’t already. It is going to take your longer than you think it will.

Use bibliographic annotations to your advantage. They should be short but informative. Ask yourself what is it I need to tell someone else so they understand how useful a resource was.

Have someone else read your process paper.  You should be able to answer yes to the questions below.

Does it explain your thesis?

Are the explanations of your decisions based on history?

Print an extra copy of your process paper and bibliography. You might need it.

Here are a few places to get advice:

National History Day has conducted and archive google hangouts in conjunction with the Smithsonian, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Newseum about each type of project. Take the time to watch the hangout and learn more about how to perfect your project from experts.

Lagrange College has been working to help teachers and students with participation in National History Day for several years. One of the unique resources they have to offer are the notes from each of the NHD google hangouts that provide you with summaries of each categories hangout.

 Here you can get advice from a NHD student veteran. Let students see what one of their peers would say to them.

Check out the advice and podcast Smithsonian’s History Explorer has to offer. Here more about research or take advantage of the chance to search available collections.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why We Need to Teach World History

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D. and Nina Kendall

            We have a generation of children who know the hard choices families and communities make during an economic crisis. Despite reports of economic improvement, joblessness, food insecurity, and poverty play significant roles in the lives of many Americans. The most recent economic crisis continues to plague states, communities and families today.

In the ongoing search for the best way to serve American citizens education is once again the battleground. This time the battle line has been drawn in Ohio.  Changes in graduation requirements by the Ohio State Legislature and supported by the Ohio Department of Education would eliminate World History as a required course for high school graduation.   World History would become an elective. It is conceivable that in some districts the course could be eliminated completely, a victim of survivor style economic decisions. Educators everywhere have realized that if a course is not mandated or assessed, it will frequently not be taught. 

There is an effort to add at least one semester via the World History Bill (OH SB 96).  If this bill is passed it will only require 1 unit of the study of World History “and civilizations” as part of the required courses for high school graduation in Ohio.  The bill will be before the Ohio Senate Education Committee on February 19, 2014 and pending approval will move onto the full Senate for a vote.  

As educators, it is hard for us to understand why a state would not require students to study World History in order to graduate.  An understanding of how the past has shaped the relationships this country has with other nations and how those international relationships impact our economy is vital to economic success for individuals, states, and nations. Yet, the students of Ohio are asked to exit High School with little understanding of the World, past, present and future, they live in. 

If you feel as strongly as we do, we urge you to lobby and contact Ohio State Senators and Representatives about the importance of students learning about World History and Civilizations.  The Ohio Council of Social Studies is also asking for letters of support from business, education, and organization leaders, parents, and other concerned citizens from across the state and nation to demonstrate the support SB 96 and the need for students to take World History in addition to American History and Government as a part of their high school education. 

While our home state does mandate World History, US History, Government and Economics must be mastered before graduation; we do understand and empathize with the plight of Ohio educators.  Our state periodically debates the need for Geography.  The United Sates is part of the Global Community. It is vital that American citizens are educated to understand and respond to the world and global economy shaped by world events. Cutting World History as a graduation requirement is a disservice to individual Americans and to the state. Tough times call for tough decisions but leaving students less prepared is not the option.


For more information:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Using Digital Resources and Tools to teach Presidential History

By Nina Kendall

As history teachers, we devote time each year to teaching about the leaders of our nation. President’s Day, next week reminds us of the varied contributions made by the 44 men who have held that office. Here are a few digital tools and unique resources you can use to add variety and perspective to your lessons.

            The #myfavoritepresident contest is from Bill of Rights Institute and runs through February 23, 2014. It is open to students in middle school and high school. Students participate by sharing a picture of their favorite president along with a reason why they are their favorite. Answer can be are submitted through Facebook (@WeTheStudentsGroup), Twitter (@bristudents), or Instagram (@wethestudents). Your students should use the hashtag #myfavoritepresident so entries can be tracked.


Tweet a question about George Washington to the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon using the hashtag above and they will respond.

Apps and More!

Prepare for the launch of Sea of Liberty on February 17, 2014. You can explore Jefferson’s ideas and create projects using primary sources.  Try Learn with Homer a new free iPad app to tell the story of the Founding Fathers to primary students.

Explore Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads

Use the flash-based exhibit at the National Constitution Center to explore the political decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Compare your decisions with this talking Lincoln and deeply examine his struggles.

            iCivics: Presidential Games

            Use iCivics to engage student conversations about citizenship and government. Teachers can use their digital resources to teach a lesson or have students play an interactive game.  In Win the Whitehouse, students run for president. Executive Command  gives students the chance to try their hand at being president for four years.

            Hoover Online! & Hoover wore many hats.

            These are two online resources that students can use to learn about the life of Herbert Hoover. Use these resources to take a deeper look at a man with a storied past. Biography can be a great tool to help students relate to historical figures. Hoover wore many hats lets elementary students look at the many different hats a president wore. Students place a hat on Hoover’s head and see how he fulfilled each role.

             Try Coursera or iTunes U
Look for a course on the presidents that your students can take for free. In fall 2013, students had the chance to take The Kennedy Half Century. "Age of Jefferson" Massive Open Online Course  begins February 17, 2014. This online, six-week course is open to all. Students will learn about Jefferson’s life and legacy, and its importance to understanding global history.

Use a tool like TodaysMeet to create a room for students to chat about a president or advocate for why their president should be your favorite. Your heart will cheer as they begin to recognize the significant achievements of each leader they have researched.

Roosevelt Rap

Learn the Roosevelt Rap and discover more about the life of FDR and how he shaped America. At the FDR Presidential Library, you can find the lyrics, video, and questions. The video is engaging and made from primary source images and footage from Pare Lorentz Center. Here is your chance to tune in and rap bout FDR

Take a Virtual Field Trip

Take a Virtual Tour of the White House or another landmark or museum. Visit our Pinterest board for more options. Use Monticello Explorer to tour Jefferson’s house with 3-D models and animations.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Another Primary Source to Consider: Film

By: Nina Kendall

            Have you been somewhere lately that you didn’t hear a phone buzz or chirp? While Teachers are learning to tweet and Grandparents are sharing pictures on Facebook, students today are using apps like Instagram and Vine to share pictures and video. Pictures have long been standard social media fare, but the addition of film is offering media consumers a way to tell stories differently. With a limit of 15 seconds or less, the format is a challenging obstacle for the storyteller.  Film has been a challenge for each generation of technology pioneers.

            Before America developed industries based on radio and film they had to learn how to use the technology.  The work of Thomas Edison and his peers are the basis of the early collections of sound and film. Their work is extensive and engaging. Through it we can get a glimpse of life from more than 100 years ago. These films have been preserved and digitized for use by the Library of Congress.

Inventing Entertainment  is a Library of Congress Collection of Edison Motion Pictures and sound recordings. This collection is an intriguing record of life in the late 19th and early 20th century.  These are Modern America’s home movies. Recorded as part of early experiments with new technology they reflect day to day life from all parts of the country. You can see how trains used to deliver mail or get a glimpse of the ghost dance. 

America at Work and Leisure  is another collection of films from 1894-1915 that you and your students can enjoy. Watch a parade, look at the work loggers do, or a gym class from more than 100 years ago.  These are primary sources that will appeal to students and engage them in conversations about how technology has changed American life and industries.

Here are few ways to use them you can incorporate early film into you classroom:

·         Use as a primary source hook to start a class discussion.

·         Incorporate a film into your class presentation.

·         Have students curate a film collection based on an issue or theme.

·         Have students create their own “wouldagrammed” video project incorporating an early film.

·         Incorporate 1 or more films into a webquest for students to complete.