UW-Green Bay hosts National History Day competition

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed: “Most of the things worth doing in the world have been declared impossible before they were done.”

His words could serve as an introduction for many of the presentations that will be offered on Saturday, April 10 when the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay hosts the Northeastern Wisconsin competition of National History Day 2010. The all-day competition will focus on the theme “Innovation In History.”

“National History Day provides students of all abilities and interests an opportunity to learn about a topic of their choosing and present it in a creative way,” said UW-Green Bay Archivist Debra Anderson, who is the National History Day regional coordinator. “National History Day provides young adults with an opportunity to learn about history firsthand by using diaries, letters, film footage, photos, and oral histories.”

Approximately 370 students, from 20 middle and high schools, displaying 228 projects will be judged in 16 categories, ranging from individual papers to documentaries to performance to website design. Students gain lifelong skills such as critical analysis, public speaking, and research.

Among the titles for Saturday’s competition:
• The 8th Wonder of the World: The iPhone
• How Legos Changed the World
• The Making of Steamboat Willie
• Spam: The Miracle Meat in a Can
• The Visionary: Vince McMahon
• Punk Rock: Safety Pins, Swastikas, and Several Other Ways to Make Your Mother Hate You For Life
• Antisepsis to Asepsis: The Road to Sterilization in Surgery

The all-day event begins with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. Judging will be from 9:30 to 3:30 p.m. Awards will be presented in the Kress Events Center at 4 p.m.

During the day there will be an opportunity for the public to watch performances and documentaries as well as view exhibits and websites. Exhibits will be displayed at the Kress Events Center. Papers and websites will be available for public display at Mary Ann Cofrin Hall. Documentaries and performances also take place in Mary Ann Cofrin Hall.

“In order to develop passionate, informed students, we have to get students to see why history is so engaging and important,” said Jay Krings, a teacher in the Green Bay Southwest High School Social Studies Department. ”National History Day does just that. NHD is a great program to get students to “do history” and allows students to get their hands dirty using primary documents and historical materials instead of simply reading out of a textbook. It helps students to understand that history is created by real people much like themselves, and also to understand that history, after all, is a great story.”

National History Day is not just a local event. It’s estimated that 500,000 students this year will take part in the academic program. In the past 20 years more than five million students have participated.

Regional contest winners will move on to the statewide competition and compete for a chance to attend the Kenneth Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. in June.

“You know you have a successful program when a student on a research field trip to the UW-Green Bay Archives says:  “National History Day Rocks My World!”  Anderson said. “Another student said the experience was “better than watching History Channel.”

For more information contact Debra Anderson at UW-Green Bay Special Collections and University Archives at (920) 465-2539; or andersod@uwgb.edu.

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