Theme - Historyday


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Sampling of Topic Ideas for D&D

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Our first History Day workshop of the year, held yesterday at the History Center, was a fun and interesting discussion about “Debate and Diplomacy in History.” History Day staff and teachers considered the meanings of the words debate and diplomacy, the complexities of this theme for students, and the surprisingly vast array of potential topics.

A sampling of some of the fascinating topics discussed at the workshop:

  • The Equal Rights Amendment. Since 1923, the federal Equal Rights Amendment, requiring equal rights for men and women, has failed to be ratified by the necessary number of states. Supporters and opponents have debated the issue for decades. It is still being debated, and three states are currently needed to ratify.
  • U.S. films in European markets. In the 1940s, American filmmakers negotiated with European governments to allow more U.S. films to be shown in overseas theaters, due to falling domestic markets. Many European countries were reluctant. These new relationships changed the film industry, especially its economics.
  • Loving v. Virginia. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation, or ban on interracial marriage, to be unconstitutional. The case overturned an 1883 Supreme Court decision and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States
  • The Three-Fifths Compromise. During the Constitutional Convention, the delegates agreed upon a compromise that counted blacks as three-fifths of a person. This compromise, in answer to a debate regarding taxes and representation and as part of a debate between large and small states, changed the South’s representation in Congress and strengthened the stronghold of slavery in that region.

Stay tuned for more topic ideas, or attend our second theme workshop on Tues., Nov. 16.

Tips for Narrowing Topics

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Think you’re settled on your History Day topic?  Before getting too far into your research, you should be sure that your topic isn’t too broad or general, making your research seem like a mountain you can’t climb.  Think of narrowing your topic down by using a funnel.  When you begin, at the top, wide part of the funnel, you have a topic that could go in too many different directions or has too much information to sift through.

To avoid a topic that is too general, we will use the funnel to narrow the idea to a more manageable topic.  Let’s use the invention of the automobile as an example.  Too broad right?  Here are a few steps to get you to that focused topic.

- After you choose a preliminary invention, innovative idea, or method, narrow down to a specific time period, person involved or place.  In our example, we could take a look at Henry Ford and his impact on the automobile industry but this is still too broad of a topic.  Let’s keep narrowing.

Tip: Here is where you can choose one of the “W Questions” (who, what, where, when, why) to focus on. 

- From there, narrow further to an event in the time period, specific aspect of the innovation, or particular idea or method.  Relating this step to our topic, we could research Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line.  See how we’re narrowing the topic down?

- Finally, draw conclusions; demonstrate how the innovation may have made an impact or change in history.  Our final topic could be drawing conclusions about how the assemble line changed industries and its long term impact.

The funnel, it works!

Remember, projects using our example would not be about the history of the assembly line, but rather, drawing conclusions and demonstrating how the innovation changed industries.

Good luck and happy researching!

Helping Students with Topic Selection

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Our theme workshop on October 19 turned into a great discussion about the 2010 theme, “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” This is a theme with a lot of nuance, and the attending teachers and staff contributed some really interesting insights about the little quirks of “Innovation.” Here’s a list of some of key points to emerge from our workshop.

  • Students must consider an innovation’s time and place. If students wanted to study the innovation of peaceful protest, they would have to research back thousands of years to find the inception of that concept. Instead, they could study how a peaceful protester, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., used peaceful protest methods that were innovative for their particular time and place.
  • Invention and innovation are not interchangeable words. Many inventions go through several modifications before they achieve success, but the end result is not necessarily an innovation. Edison’s lightbulb was not an innovation; many others had created some form of that invention. Edison’s innovation, instead, was the system he helped create that made use of the lightbulb easier.
  • Not all innovations have a significant impact. Students must consider if an innovation significantly changed the way people lived or was a significant change to society. Women’s bloomers changed the way that women were able to function in society, but fashion innovations such as the mini-skirt or bellbottoms did not affect the same sort of significant change.
  • Non-invention innovations can often allow for greater depth of research. Instead of researching the invention of the camera, students could research the innovative ways that cameras were used in wartime. Governmental innovations, such as the Three-Fifths Compromise or the Homestead Act, are great examples, too.
  • Innovations do not have to have a “positive” impact. The Third Reich’s use of the Lebensborn program, which provided resources to women and families who had “Aryan” children, was very innovative, but had certain eugenics qualities about it.

When helping students choose topics, guide them through their interests and help them ask questions about time, place and significance. Students may settle on an invention, because they believe that is the only course, but you can help them choose more creative topics by exploring the world outside of the creation of a new piece of technology.

Bits and pieces as we launch History Day 2010

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

2009 was a great year for Minnesota History Day –  we had a number of new schools participating, the overall quality of the projects was improved, and seven groups of our students earned medals at nationals in June — and the staff has high hopes for 2010 as well.

Here are some bits and pieces as we start up another History Day season…

  • If you enrolled as a History Day educator last year, you will be receiving your introductory packet in the mail shortly. If you have not yet enrolled, please visit our website and click on the “Enrollment” tab to ensure that you receive our free mailings throughout the year. Please pay particular attention to the website category details in your packet; the rules have changed for 2010!
  • The theme for 2010 is “Innovation in History: Impact and Change.” It will be a tricky theme, as students mull over the meaning of innovation and determine how their topic affected significant change. We will be discussing the theme at length and compiling topic ideas at our first-ever theme-specific workshop on Monday, October 19. You can register online and be part of the discussion!
  • History Day staff are shifting duties as we begin another school year. Check the website and be on the lookout for updates about your regional History Day representatives!

As always, feel free to contact us with questions at or (651) 259-3426.

Last minute sources?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Hey Students-

So, how are the History Day projects coming along? Everything making sense? Have you been able to connect your person’s actions to a legacy? I hope so, because as I am sure you know that the due dates for projects are fast approaching.

Need some last minute sources? Just use your library card. Going to your library is the quickest way to obtain some instant History Day help not only because of the books, but also because librarians will be excited to help you.

Also, with your library card, in most areas throughout the state, you can access their online databases. The best one for primary sources is the Historic New York Times online, which allows you to access historic newspaper articles.  This is like a google but for newspaper articles.  These articles are practically begging to be used on you projects so check it out! If you are unsure about the specifics of accessing the site you should contact your local librarian for assistance.

Good luck and see you all soon.

Fascinating Collection of Primary Sources

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I found an interesting page on the Harvard Library website with a collection of primary sources related to working women. Some of the sources are from the women themselves, others are from their contemporaries, biographers or other contributors. A few of the big names on this site are:

  • Jane Addams
  • Clara Barton
  • Elizabeth Blackwell
  • the Grimke sisters
  • Julia Ward Howe
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Lucy Stone
  • Ida Tarbell
  • Frances Willard
  • Victoria Woodhull

The site also gives a brief biography, other links, and the collections can be searched by subject or source genre. I like this site because I feel like some of these women’s sources can be elusive.

Library Help for Students!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Hey Students,

So back from break, and back in school… I remember that feeling like it was yesterday…

As school has started up again it means that History Day season is in full swing. We hope you guys are working hard at putting together an awesome project for this year…

 What’s that? You don’t even have a topic selected yet? No worries, we have you covered. This year we have expanded our outreach and are offering History Day specific events at libraries here at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. At these library events you can:

  • Research your topic and find new sources
  • Get individual help from History Day staff
  • Receive advice from librarians
  • Have fun with other History Day students!

The dates we have set up are as follows:

@ The Minnesota History Center Library - 9AM-12PM, January 17th, 2009

@ Minneapolis: 

@ St. Paul:

Let us know if you have any questions.  We hope to see you there!

Holler at History Day!!!

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Well kids, it’s that time of the year again. That means History Day! Over here at the History Center we are excited and working hard at making this year our best ever. This year we thought we’d get caught up on technology, so we created this blog. We hope you enjoy this portal over the coming weeks and months as we post important information and insider tips for making your History Day project the best it can be.

A bit about myself, I am Matt and I work with St. Paul Schools. I am a life-long St. Paul kid and a National History Day finalist from 1999 in the group performance category. I was also a History Day mentor during my college years at the U of M. I will be writing the student section of this blog and hope that you guys join in for some fun discussions and follow along with what is going on over here at History Day headquarters. I will try to post every other week for now, with plans to make it a weekly production as competition season nears.

As the season is underway, you all should be choosing topics and finding something that interests you. Remember you don’t want to do a boring topic, find that person who you want to investigate and learn a lot about.

So, with this year’s theme of the Individual in History: Actions & Legacies, I start off with the first insider tip of the season: DON’T DO A BIOGRAPHY! It’s going to have to be a bit deeper than that :)

Maybe this classic History Day clip will help…
National History Day: What’s your point?

Welcome to History Day!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Welcome parents, and thank you for taking time to catch up on whats new in the world of History Day. We hope this blog becomes an open arena for any questions and discussions that come up through all stages of your child’s journey. My name is Ali Kappes and I am a program associate with History Day and will be managing the parent blog.

This year’s theme, “The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies”, has been a fun topic of discussion for students. We always encourage students to use all forms of resources, including parents, when choosing a topic, so get ready!

This is normally the time of the year when students begin asking you what you know about their topic, whether it be their great-grandfather or Abraham Lincoln.  If you are running out of answers I would encourage you to help your child get in touch with a local librarian or even a county historical society for local topics.

History Day Parent Tip - Metro Library Days

There are a number of days in January, February, and March when the History Day staff and local libraries have teamed up to offer students that extra help in their research they might need. Whether its researching, thesis writing, or general project help your child is looking for, we are there to provide it.  Below is a list of local libraries and dates.

Ridgedale Library; Minnetonka 5:30 PM-8:30 PM - Jan. 12

Central Library; St. Paul 3:00 PM-6:00 PM - Jan. 12, 26, Feb. 2, 9, 23

History Day Hullabaloo, Central Library, Minneapolis 11:00 AM-3:00 PM - Jan. 31, Feb. 21, Mar 7

Rondo Library; St. Paul 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM - Jan. 24, Feb. 7, 14

The library at the History Center is always an option as well for students.  They can just call or email us and we would be happy to meet up with them at the History Center. Library Hours

*There is no charge to access the History Center library.

Welcome to the History Day Teacher Blog!

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Just in time for 2009, History Day is taking one of the final steps into the new millenium and has launched a blog. We have put aside our Luddite tendencies and realized that even historians can be hip to new technology. Welcome, then, to the inaugural blog for History Day teachers across Minnesota; we hope that you will find it helpful, amusing, thought-provoking, and a portal to all the answers you seek.

My name is Jessica Ellison, and my background with History Day goes back 16 years. I participated in the program in the performance category for four years while attending Osseo Public Schools. After high school, I kept my foot always in the History Day waters, until I came here in 2004. Although I won’t admit it when March rolls around and I’m up to my ears in regional registrations and judge forms, I love History Day and the opportunities it offers students.

I will be managing the teacher category. We will have two other blog categories — one for students and one for parents — and we encourage you to venture into these other categories as well. In this blog, we will be sharing important information about History Day events, updates, topics, and categories, as well as providing advice and sharing the wealth of knowledge that we encounter in History Day classrooms around the state. If you have a suggestion for a blog feature, I’m always looking for new material.

I have never been a History Day teacher, but I have worked with some of the most outstanding HD teachers that Minnesota, and the nation, have to offer. They are an amazing group of people with an unshakeable faith in their kids’ abilities, and I am consistently moved by the time, talent and tears that these teachers pour into History Day. They are among the most outstanding people I have ever met. I hope, in this blog, to highlight the work of some of these teachers and pass along their words of wisdom.

Keep checking in for more updates along the way. I hope to update every two weeks, and then every week once the event season looms. And since I don’t want to send you away empty-handed, here are some tidbits to take along.

Reminder: Category-specific workshops will be held at the History Center in January. Sharpen your exhibit, documentary and performance skills! Sign up online:

Topic idea: It would be interesting to research how the fates of several individuals were linked in with proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. His proof was first dependent on the charting of an eclipse, but his colleagues were captured in Russia at the outbreak of WWI; after the eclipse project collapsed, Einstein realized his math was faulty and should the eclipse project been successful, he would have been a public failure. His family was also affected; he promised his estranged wife the prize money when he won the Nobel Prize for his theory. And a mathematician proved the theory at the same time Einstein did, but he deliberately stepped back so Einstein could take the credit.