Tennessee State Seal
Tennessee Students Compete for Honors at District History Day Contests
(Published: February 23, 2010)

Beginning this weekend, students from across the state will be demonstrating their research abilities, knowledge and creativity in the world’s leading program for history education.

The district level competitions for Tennessee History Day are scheduled to take place from Feb. 25 through March 7 in Memphis, Murfreesboro, Knoxville and Chattanooga. More details about the times and locations of the district competitions are available at http://www.tennesseehistory.org/historyday.htm or by calling 615-741-8934.

In the competitions, students in grades six through 12 will present history-themed projects in a variety of formats – including museum-style exhibits, papers, web sites, documentaries and even live performances. Judges are university professors, high school teachers, museum curators, archivists and other public historians.

The winners at the district competition will be eligible to participate in the statewide competition, which will be held at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville on April 2. Winners in the statewide competition advance to the National History Day finals, which will be held in College Park, Maryland in June.

Nationwide, more than half a million students are expected to participate in some level of History Day competition, including 5,000 from Tennessee.

Emma Grace Thompson won a silver medal as an eighth grader last year at the national contest. Her project, titled “Innovation Ends Isolation: The Effect of the Telephone on a  Small Appalachian Community,” chronicled the effects of technological seclusion in her own community of Coker Creek in East Tennessee.

“By choosing a local topic very pertinent to me, I was able to uncover a sense of pride in my community and myself,” she said.  “National History Day allows me to reach beyond the mundane dates, facts and figures of standard textbook history into a narrative that is real and relevant even in the modern world. It's a great honor to participate and be named a winner in the National History Day.”

Tennessee History Day is organized by the Tennessee Historical Society and sponsored at the state level by the Tennessee Department of State, Humanities Tennessee and the Tennessee General Assembly. This year’s theme is Debate and Diplomacy in History: Success, Failures, Consequences. Students are asked to examine how different debates or diplomatic events have shaped the course of history.

Local sponsors for the district competitions include the departments of history at the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as well as the East Tennessee Historical Society.

“We are proud to sponsor Tennessee History Day for the second year in a row,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “History was my favorite subject as a student and I enjoyed meeting students last year who shared that same excitement. We know that history is important and studies have now proven that it results in more productive adult citizens.”

Most students begin preparing for the competition soon after the school year begins. Their teachers will brainstorm with them to choose topics and provide them with the guidelines for entering the competition. Students may decide to enter as individuals or as groups.

National History Day’s impact goes well beyond the students who participate. Thousands of parents also get involved, making it a family affair. It also provides teachers with a unique teaching method. Vanessa Lutton is the media specialist at Bellevue Middle School and uses the History Day program to teach invaluable research skills.

“It’s an excellent venue for teachers to be able to teach a lot of different skills such as compiling research information, developing a professional presentation format and learning to write bibliographies,” said Lutton. “All of these things that it teaches can be taken into high school, college and the work place.”

Since 1974, National History Day has grown from a Cleveland, Ohio competition with about 100 students to a national academic program.

For more information about the History Day program in Tennessee, including details about the district competitions, or the program’s state-level sponsor, the Tennessee Historical Society, visit http://www.tennesseehistory.org/historyday.htm or contact Kelly Wilkerson at 615-741-8934 or by email at historyday@tennesseehistory.org