History in the making


Students from around southwest Minnesota competed in the National History Day regional event at Southwest Minnesota State University for a chance to go on to statewide competition and from there to the nationals.

The National History Day competition has been held since 1980. SMSU has hosted the regional event for more than eight years.

“It’s an educational program engaging students in history as well as non-traditional learning opportunities,” said Torrie Wiebe, program associate with the Minnesota Historical Society. “Students compete in five basic categories on any topic, but it has to fit within the theme for the year. This year it’s rights and responsibilities.”

Students compete from two divisions, either as individuals or groups of two to five students. The junior division is grades six through eight, the senior division is grades nine through 12. Students present projects in the categories of research paper, exhibit, documentary, performance, or website.

Students are judged on their ability to conduct in-depth research, use primary and secondary sources, read a variety of texts, analyze and synthesize information and write and present historical content.

“Relation to theme is very important,” said Rachel Hernandez, MHS program specialist. “You shouldn’t have to guess. They don’t need to discuss both rights and responsibilities, or both equally. But they should avoid current events, ‘What if’ history, or moral-philosophical arguments.”

Whether the student decides to concentrate on local history or international history, popular versus unique topics, both are judged equally.

“We see a lot of the same topics,” Hernandez said, “but just because a topic is popular doesn’t mean it isn’t new to the student.”

There were three exhibits on Susan B. Anthony, for example.

“In fifth grade, we did this project called Living History. I was Susan B. Anthony, and this year I wanted to learn more about it,” said Madison Melin from St. Mary’s School in Bird Island, whose project was titled, “The Right to Vote.” “It fits the rights part because she got women the right to vote. It fit the responsibility part because she believed it was women’s responsibility to get women the vote.”