Wisconsin Historical Society National History Day in Wisconsin Update

November 2010
National History Day logo Greetings!

This month we are focusing on some important reminders about the NHD theme for 2011. We are also highlighting a few new resources that you can share with your students.

Please take a moment to read and pass along!
2011 Theme Logo
This year students are being asked to select topics connected to Debate and Diplomacy in History. Students should select a topic connected to either debate or diplomacy. Students may select a topic connected to both, though it does not have to be both.
Students should explicitly connect their topics to the theme.  If consistent with the thesis and scope of the project, theme connections should be drawn to both debate and diplomacy. For example: A student researching the United Nations might feel that the topic is only linked to diplomacy. However, depending on the argument that they are making, that student could also find connections to debate. The connection to both of these elements does not have to be equal. In the United Nations project, for example, a student may choose to focus the argument primarily on the diplomacy connection, but may make a minor connection to debate when discussing historical context.
In brainstorming topics, students should think about the theme terms in the broadest definitions possible:
Debate: While literal debates (Lincoln/Douglas, Kennedy/Nixon) will likely be popular History Day topics, they are not the only approaches. Debates have taken place over issues in all facets of life: religious, academic, political, etc. Students will be able to find topics that are examples of more ideological debates in court cases, social issues, art/literature, science/technology, etc.
Diplomacy: Most often students will associate the idea of diplomacy with foreign relations and negotiations between nations. While these issues will make for good History Day topics, this is not the only way to think of diplomacy. Diplomacy can also take place as groups of people with differing viewpoints gather to mediate treaties, discuss agreements, resolutions, etc.
Students may be interested in contemporary debates (such as the present debate over immigration legislation in Arizona), however, urge your students to look at historical topics for History Day. For topics that are too new, students will be unable to make an argument about the significance of that topic in history. As a general rule of thumb, encourage topics that occurred at least 20 years in the past.
Students selecting a topic connected to debate will need extra guidance to make sure that they are focusing on the significance of a debate in history, not presenting or debating the pros and cons of an issue.
Focus on a Debate in History: Students should focus on a debate in history, not debate something that happened in history.
  • Instead of... A performance that is a debate over the contemporary teaching of evolution in schools or an exhibit that presents the pros and cons of creationism in schools.
  • Try... A performance or exhibit that looks at the Scopes Trial as a moment of national debate over the issue of the teaching of evolution in school. Examine how that debate shaped future policies on education.
Make an Argument about the Significance of the Topic in History: While students will surely have opinions on the topic, the focus of the project is not to join the debate. Students should make an argument about the significance of the topic in history. What impact did it have? How did it change things?
Avoid Imagined History: In order to make an argument, students are going to need to focus on what actually happened in the past and avoid imagined history. A project about the atomic bomb will not be successful by making an argument about what might have happened if the U.S. didn't drop the bomb. Likewise, a student studying the same topic should be sure to focus on the debate in history. Looking at the atomic bomb from today's perspective and debating the dropping of the bomb (Should the atomic bomb have been dropped?) is a question more suited for an ethics class. A more historical approach would ask if President Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs was consistent with or a departure from American wartime ideals, goals, and tactics?
Student in Wisconsin Historical Society Stacks
The research process is a key step for National History Day, laying the foundation for the entire project. However figuring out the right search terms, knowing where to look for information, and finding a balance between online and offline sources can pose a challenge to students.

We've developed a general overview of the research process to help get your students on the right track.
This presentation is designed for students who are already familiar with their topic and may have just begun the research process. Supporting worksheets will help students to follow along with the presentation as well as serving as takeaways for NHD binders or folders. Please feel free to contact us with feedback about this presentation!
Many teachers and students will look to the Wisconsin Topic Supplement for NHD project ideas. In a change from previous years, the Wisconsin topic supplement is no longer theme-specific. Due to limitations on staff time, we will be adding to this list each year, instead of reworking materials to fit a changing theme.

Please share this information with your students! Participants
will need to take a closer look at each potential topic and consider how it fits with the annual theme for NHD 2010-2011: Debate & Diplomacy in History. All the topics listed in the supplement WILL NOT fit the annual theme.
History Day Exhibit Boards
Exhibits boards are available from the Minnesota History Day program for interested teachers and students. Available in black and white, these boards are larger than the typical science fair boards and come with optional title panels. Boards are reasonably priced and are available in packs of 10. Order exhibit boards online! (This link opens a PDF file.)
Teacher in Archives
Are you interested in taking a closer look at National History Day to strengthen your own school's program? Join us in Milwaukee on Saturday, November 13 for a free workshop! We will take a look at several key points in any NHD project - including research, argument, and project design. Learn more or sign up on our website!
Picket Line at Milwaukee City Hall, WHS Image ID 2941.
The Wisconsin Labor History Society offers will again be offering special awards for topics related to the study of Labor History topics at all regional NHD events and the Wisconsin State Event. Given the annual theme, we hope to see many topics related to this area of history at our 2011 competitions. Learn more about the prizes and see sample topics in the brochure (PDF).
Classroom Presentations
Invite a Wisconsin Historical Society staff member to join your class for a day! Our interactive classroom presentations are designed to introduce students to the basics of the NHD program, share samples of projects, get students thinking about the theme and topics, and excite participants for their NHD adventure. Especially for teachers working with NHD for the first time, this presentation is a great way to kick off the program in your school. Email Sarah Aschbrenner to schedule a date.
Sarah Michele and SarahTHANKS FOR READING!
Be the first to reply to this email to win a free assortment of adhesive materials - perfect for NHD exhibit projects!

We appreciate your support of National History Day in Wisconsin.  We are excited to have you as part of our program!


Sarah Aschbrenner, State Coordinator
National History Day in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Historical Society