Posted on 09/19/2014 at 04:08 PM by Blog Experts

National History Day is a national, academic program for middle and high school students. In Iowa, this includes 4th and 5th grade students as well. Across the nation, more than half a million students participate in history day, researching primary and secondary sources, analyzing and interpreting what they’ve read, and drawing conclusions about their topics’ significance in history. Students present their work in papers, websites, exhibits, performances or documentaries. They work individually, or in groups of up to five students.

By participating in National History Day, students learn life long, 21st Century skills in reading, writing, and thinking. Some of these skills include:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Research
  • Oral and written communication
  • Visual literacy
  • Organization and ability to meet deadlines
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • A sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process (

The theme for National History Day 2015 is Leadership and Legacy in History. This year, students will be asked to focus on both leadership and legacy in history. Their topic cannot be a current event. Students may think about world leaders, but they can also focus their topic on local community leaders—religious leaders, as well as political leaders. Individual leaders can be a topic, but the focus can also be on groups of people fighting for a common goal.

Students may analyze the impact these leaders had on society, and what changes occurred because of their leadership—or lack thereof. Ideas and accomplishments can also be studied, as well as controversies. Students will want to look at both sides of an issue, and think about the leader’s significance in history.

There are several resources available to help students and teachers with this year’s theme. First, on October 20 and 21 (attend just one day—not both), Patti Miller, a Civil Rights Activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be presenting at the State Historical Building. There is no charge for this day. To register for this event, contact: (515.281.6860)

A second event is titled, 100 Leaders in World History. This project asks students and adults alike to identify leaders who have left a significant legacy. There is a gallery of 100 significant leaders in world history, and 100 days in which the public can vote on the leaders. Educators can download a set of classroom lessons that will engage students in the study of leadership and legacy in history. To view the list of leaders and to obtain the program materials, go to:

History Day in Northwest Iowa will be held March 12, 2015 at Western Iowa Tech Community College. Materials and information about registration will be coming soon. In the meantime, if you want to explore the theme further or learn more about National History Day, visit the NHD website at:  If you have questions about the local contest sponsored by Northwest AEA and Western Iowa Tech Community College, contact Judy Sweetman at:

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