Do you love watching historical documentaries? Going to museums? Seeing plays? Reading articles, books, or perusing websites to learn about your favorite historical topics?
Judging History Day is a unique opportunity to get to know students, encourage their learning, explore historical topics and stories, and connect with the Twin Cities’ educational community.
National History Day is a program that promotes in-depth research and critical analysis for students in grades 6-12. National History Day in Minnesota is a partnership between the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota.
Students participating in History Day select historical topics to investigate through individual or group projects across five categories: performances, exhibits, documentary films, websites, and research papers. Learn about the categories and view sample projects here.
Projects are created around a central theme, which changes annually. This year the theme is Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.
In addition to the project, students create a process paper and an annotated bibliography to highlight their research, methods, sources, and inspiration for choosing their topic.
Students create their projects in school, then compete against classmates in an initial school round of competition. A certain number of projects are then selected to advance to the regionals round.
CMS will host the Metro Junior West regionals event, which will draw students in grades 6-8 from the Twin Cities’ western suburbs.
This is where judges come in. History Day judges are vital volunteers crucial to making the program possible.
At competitions, judges work in teams of 2 or 3 to review projects and interview students. During the evaluation process, judges will select the strongest projects to advance to the state round, which is the next level of competition. Judges also provide written feedback for each project they view.
How to become a History Day judge
There are no required qualifications to become a History Day judge, although high school students and younger are not permitted.
However, judges should have a genuine interest in history. They should be comfortable interacting with students and making decisions about projects. Possessing a critical eye, and being willing to take the time to give constructive feedback to students is also important.
All judges will be asked to participate in a training session to learn about the process and understand how to use the History Day rubric to evaluate student projects. Judges will also attend orientation on the day of the event, so they are prepared to do the best job possible.
Judging at the competition is about a five-hour commitment, from roughly 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the day of the event. Judges can also get continuing education clock hours for volunteering, if applicable.
History Day helps students learn important skills
Eric Hanson has been teaching History Day for the past two years as a social studies teacher at CMS. “I am excited for CMS to host,” he said. “I can’t wait to talk with other teachers and see all these projects up close and in person at regionals.”
This will be the first year since 2019 that Metro Junior West regionals have been held in person due to the pandemic.
“It gives me the opportunity to take in all these wonderful projects and talk with others who have taught it for years, which I will find extremely valuable,” he added.
Hanson said he loves teaching History Day because it offers so many important benefits to his students.
“I just told my classes the other day that I do not only think they learned a lot about the topic they chose, but they have learned a lot about working on a long-term project and the skills of time management, organization, and for those working in groups, how to collaborate with a group of individuals to accomplish a goal.”
He added, “I said that I think those things are as important if not more important than all the stuff they learned about their topic.”
Judges create another important part of the History Day experience. Judges allow students to share the projects they have worked hard to create from months of historical research.
Judges also provide thoughtful and valuable feedback that encourages student learning and guides them for future research projects and historical inquiry.
Students who move on to the next round of competition will also closely read judge feedback to help them identify ways to improve their projects. Winners of regional competitions will move on to the state round in April, then potentially to Nationals in Washington, D.C., in June.
Still interested? Sign up here to volunteer at Metro Junior West or other History Day events.
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