High school History Day marks decade of success at UW-Green Bay
The annual Northeastern Wisconsin History Day competition at UW-Green Bay made a little history of its own April 14, marking a decade of success with nearly 400 eager participants.
The major anniversary capped off 10 years of significant growth for the event, which at its inception was small enough to fit inside two rooms of the University Union. Now the contest, sponsored by the Wisconsin Historical Society, takes over much of the Kress Events Center, filling the main gymnasium with student projects on a wide range of topics.
UW-Green Bay Prof. Andrew Kersten helped start History Day here in 2003, thanks to a Teaching American History grant. Coordinated by the Cofrin Library Archives and part of National History Day, the first competition drew 76 students from five schools — while this year’s contest brought in nearly 400 high school students, representing 18 schools from across the region.
“Our regional National History Day event is now the signature history event in Northeastern Wisconsin,” said Kersten, chair of UW-Green Bay’s department of Democracy and Justice Studies. “Our hope was to create an event that showcased student achievement in history. It has grown far beyond my initial hopes.”
More than 3,000 students have participated in the annual competition since its inception, presenting a wide variety of projects that pertain to their research interests. The 2012 event featured topics including Elvis Presley, Coca-Cola, the Great Depression, the Titanic, Jackie Robinson, child labor and Steve Jobs. Several projects focused specifically on Wisconsin history, including those on the Kohler Company, Ringling Brothers Circus, McCarthyism and more. Interspersed with better-known subjects were projects on individuals such as Milwaukee-born Tom Blake, who is credited with being the father of modern surfing.
Winners from the Northeastern Wisconsin National History Day contest, one of seven regional events held statewide in March and April, will participate in the May 4 state competition in Madison. State winners advance to the national competition, held in June in Washington DC. Finalists are named in categories including paper and individual and group exhibits, performance and website.
For those involved, it’s a surefire way to make history come alive.
“Our National History Day event not only allows young history students to display their abilities and passions,” Kersten said, “but it also provides an opportunity for teachers to help their students dig deeply in historical materials and develop original interpretations of the past.”
Click here for a complete list of Northeastern regional finalists: History Day 2012 State Finalists (PDF). For more information on National History Day in Northeastern Wisconsin, click here. To find out more about the state competition, click here.
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