A New Year for Maryland History Day

September 2, 2015
by Grace Leatherman

Welcome back to another school year, and another year of Maryland History Day! This is a busy time of year, but it is a great time to get your students off to a wonderful start with Maryland History Day.

All over Maryland, curricula are changing to reflect a greater emphasis on document analysis and project-based learning. Studies have proven that students who participate in research projects like Maryland History Day gain a variety of skills, become better writers, are better prepared for higher education and careers, and perform at a higher level on standardized tests. This last is particularly true of the PARCC assessments, which require students to analyze non-fiction texts.  Maryland History Day is a great way to teach the skills that students need, and it is important to get a strong start.

Many teachers worry that Maryland History Day is “something extra,” but really, it can be worked into your existing curriculum with a bit of planning. Some teachers already do research projects that, with a little tweaking, could become History Day projects. I used to start at the beginning of the year, and block out one day every two weeks as a History Day work day. As often as possible, I booked the library, so that my wonderful media specialist could teach skills like bibliography writing. Studies have proven that students who participate in research projects like Maryland History Day gain a variety of skills, become better writers, are better prepared for higher education and careers, and perform at a higher level on standardized tests. This last is particularly true of the PARCC assessments, which require students to analyze non-fiction texts.  Maryland History Day is a great way to teach the skills that students need, and it is important to get a strong start.

By starting early, I could break up the project and teach students skills one at a time. We chose topics in September, researched and wrote bibliographies in October, wrote theses and organized our notes in November, and started building the projects in December. By then I was starting to plan a late January school contest, and to think about the county contest in late February or early March.

If you have never done History Day before, or are just looking for new ideas, the Maryland Humanities Council has new tools for you to use to help plan your year. You can request a flash drive from your county coordinator that contains lesson plans to take you through the History Day year, as well as work sheets and primary sources. It also contains this year’s rulebook, theme book, and sample timelines to help you plan. You can also find much of this information on our website. Check out our suggested History Day timeline, created by Courtney Hobson.

Teacher Teaching Classroom with Kids and Parents
Grace Leatherman spreading the word about History Day

As the school year begins, many teachers are planning their own continuing education. If you are interested in being a History Day teacher, or are one, consider taking the  Document Analysis through Project-Based Learning online course, offered by the Maryland Humanities Council and Maryland Public Television’s Thinkport, with support from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program. This eight-week, three CPD credit course will allow you and a cohort of teachers to learn about Maryland History Day, and research projects in general. You will create your own History Day project, as well as materials for your classroom. This is a fast, fun way to get the credits you need, and will give you a confident start to the Maryland History Day year.

As you and your students get started with Maryland History Day, the Maryland Humanities Council is always here to help. As Maryland History Day Outreach Coordinator, my job is to provide support to teachers and students as they proceed through the History Day Process. Judy Dobbs and Courtney Hobson are always available to answer questions, and they produce the wonderful Maryland History Day Contest that many of your students will attend. Please let us know what we can do to make your year successful! Our contact information is included below.

Judy D. Dobbs
Program Officer
Chautauqua & Maryland History Day
(410) 685-4185
jdobbs@mdhc.org

Courtney Hobson
Program Assistant
Chautauqua & Maryland History Day
(410) 685-3715
chobson@mdhc.org

Grace Leatherman
Maryland History Day Outreach Coordinator
(410) 685-3715
gleatherman@mdhc.org

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Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities.
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Baltimore, Maryland 21201-4565
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