Recently our History Day program assistant, Auni Husted, interviewed Amie Sanner of Calvert High School in Calvert County about her History Day experience. Ms. Sanner was honored with the 2011 Patricia Behring High School History Day Teacher of the Year award.
[Auni] What classes and grades do you teach?
[Amie] I have 9th, 10th, and 12th graders in Honors World History, United States History, and AP World History. I am actually teaching a pilot 9th grade AP World History class this year too, and it is going great!
How many years have you participated in History Day?
I have participated for 5 years.
How many of your students are participating in History Day this year?
All of my students complete History Day projects, which comes out to about 150 students.
How do you use History Day in your classroom? Is it a required assignment for all of your students, for just a certain class, or an option for one or more individual students who express interest?
For my underclassmen (Honors World History and United States History) they get the freedom to choose which way they would like to present their History Day project, but they all must complete a project. They also get the freedom to choose their topics (as long as they fit it into the theme). For my AP World History students they must complete the research paper (since these are skills I would like them to focus on in a rigorous college level class) and it can be on a topic of their choice, as long as it fits into the NHD theme. I also encourage other students in the school, whose teacher doesn’t participate in History Day, to complete the project. I have after school help sessions for any student that needs extra help, or wants to dig deeper into reasearch.
Do your students receive a grade for their History Day projects? Extra credit?
All of my students receive multiple grades for completing their History Day project. I start with smaller “process” grades (such as collecting sources, correct annotations, creating a thesis statement, etc.) over the entire period of the project. At the end when the final project is due I grade them on a “product” grade. This grade is broken up into multiple parts on a rubric (follows NHD guidelines, connects to the NHD theme, overall appearance, creativity/originality, good use of primary sources, etc.).
Do you make classroom time available for History Day work? Do you provide after school sessions?
History Fair is a 6 month long project in my class. I use about 3-5 days a month in the media center working on computers with students on various things (introducing and researching the theme, finding topics, looking for primary and secondary sources, creating the process paper and annotated bibliography,etc.). I also provide 2 Thursdays every month from September to February for after school help sessions (which I open up for any student in the school working on History Fair), and then in February I open up my classroom after school for a week for students to work on constructing and creating their projects (exhibits mostly). I have a lot of lower-income students who need to have supplies provided for them to complete the project, so I call them “Martha Stewart” days, when they get to use everything in my classroom (backboards, hot glue gun, computer and printer for pictures, construction paper, markers, decorations, etc.), and they create their project.
How much class time to you devote to History Day (per week and/or throughout the year)?
As a class we work on History Day every month from September through February. We spend between 3-5 days a month in the media center, but we spend time in class too working out the kinks in things too.
Personally, I spend a lot more of my time working on History Day than I like to admit. J I use Noodletools with my students to interact with their Annotated Bibliography, and it helps me to communicate with them about poor sources or weak annotations. This is one of my favorite things about technology, I can work on their projects when I’m in my PJs at home, and they get the feedback immediately.
I am Calvert High School’s History Fair Coordinator, so I spend a good portion of my time working with other social studies teachers on their projects with students too. I try to come up with newer and better ways to have our school’s History Fair, and more efficient ways to have other teachers feel comfortable working with their students on completing a History Fair project.
Do you partner with teachers in other disciplines or bring in outside resource people (such as archivists, local museum professionals, etc.)?
I have reached out to our English department to help work on Historical Papers, and our school’s theater department to help with Performances and Documentaries. We have two wonderful Media Specialists also who help our History Day students every step of the way. We are also fortunate enough to have the local D.C. museums within driving distance, so field trips to places like the Holocaust Museum provide students with other resources they can use for their projects as well.
Are there History Day research field trips?
I wish. Our funding is very tight. I have to provide my own resources and materials for my after school help sessions.
How do you involve parents in the process (e.g., evening introductory session, regular updates, showcase projects for families and the community)?
Throughout the process of completing History Fair we have numerous things for parents and students. Our school’s Media Specialist has History Day as the welcome page to our Media Center’s website (http://chsmedia.blogspot.com/), and it is also on our school’s website. I also personally send out emails to parents with my History Fair resource packet and helpful places for them to research. We also have a History Fair showcase in the school’s auditorium and a website gallery in the media center during History Fair.