History Day Draws in the Whole Family
Marta Mills, a History Day judge and Facebook friend, shares her thoughts on being a judge and parent in this year’s Maryland History Day.
For the past four years, my family has looked forward to spring for its warmer temperatures, longer days, and History Day! We learned about History Day when friends from Ohio asked us to see their daughter perform an historical skit about the Erie Canal for the National History Day finals. We loved the energy of the event and, as parents of a history enthusiast, were very excited to see middle and high school students digging into history and receiving recognition for it. It was especially exciting to see parents supporting their children’s interests outside of sports.
Our son participated in the local and state contest three years ago outside of school, but he wanted to share the experience with others at his school. Since Towson High School was unfamiliar with History Day, he started a History Club so students take their research to the public via History Day. He and three other Towson High School students created a website about how the Space Race fueled scientific innovation. They worked on the site over winter and spring breaks and tried to meet after school several times a month. But, like most high school students these days, their schedules are crammed with AP courses, driver’s ed classes after school, and the college application deadlines. To their amazement, their project won the local contest.
Knowing we would be driving our son to the Maryland History Day contest at UMBC and waiting until the awards ceremony, my husband and I decided we’d like to volunteer our time to the Maryland Humanities Council and serve as judges. We are both history enthusiasts—he teaches in public schools, and I’m a writer who is a frequent volunteer in clubs and schools.
Judging students’ entries was eye-opening. Through our son, we’d witnessed first-hand the long hours of research, writing, occasional frustration, and design that went into creating a web site, but we had no idea what the judges saw. The depth and range of talent we saw was thrilling. And interviewing the students reminded us all over again how many curious, brilliant students are eager to share their knowledge.
Following the judging, we attended the awards ceremony which is spellbinding when your child’s category is almost the last one announced. And, once again, to his amazement, his group’s senior website won! So, for the first time, he’ll be attending National History Day (NHD) at the University of Maryland at College Park as a participant instead of a spectator.
As the NHD contest date nears, our son’s excitement builds even as he is forced to practice some serious time-juggling skills with AP exams, English essays, summer job applications, and finals all demanding his attention. From our perspective, History Day is time well-spent—after all, 10 years from now he probably won’t remember taking that Geometry test, while presenting his History Day project on the Space Race will be an indelible memory.
Tags: Maryland History Day