History Day Intro

What Is History Day?

National History Day is not just a day, but every day! The National History Day program is a year-long education program that culminates in a national contest every June.

For more than twenty-five years the National History Day program has promoted systemic educational reform related to the teaching and learning of history in America's schools. The combination of creativity and scholarship built into the NHD program anticipated current educational reforms, making National History Day a leading model of performance-based learning.

NHD is a year-long education program that engages students in grades 6-12 in the process of discovery and interpretation of historical topics. Students produce dramatic performances, imaginative exhibits, multimedia documentaries and research papers based on research related to an annual theme. These projects are then evaluated at local, state, and national competitions.

History Day Program Objectives

The National History Day program aims to:

  • Provide teachers with an innovative teaching tool.
  • Assist teachers and schools in meeting educational standards by encouraging student participation in portfolio-building and outcome-based learning activities.
  • Encourage the study of social studies by guiding students to express themselves creatively through presentations of historical topics in various formats.
  • Celebrate and build on the strengths of students as creative, capable learners.
  • Interest students in learning about history by integrating the materials and methods of social studies, art, sciences, literature, language, and music into their presentations.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to work with and analyze historical documents and other primary source material.
  • Provide a framework for hands-on, student centered learning that guides classroom teaching as well as continuous professional development.
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will help students manage and use information effectively now and in the future.
  • Use compelling themes to develop the multiple intelligences of children, making the academic curriculum more meaningful and accessible to all students.
  • Develop student research and reading skills and to refine student presentation skills in writing, visual projects and performances.
  • Encourage students to move beyond the classroom and into the community to investigate history.
  • Build a classroom community, encourage shared responsibility for classroom management and learning, and promote an understanding of democratic ideals.
  • Encourage students to develop a sense of history as a process of change, a multifaceted development over time that affects every aspect of human life and society.
  • Motivate students through the excitement of competition and through recognition for their work.
  • Involve parents and other members of the community in the students' education.
  • Expose students to new and exciting educational environments by holding contests on college campuses and at historical societies.

Why History Day?
Here is a selection of survey answers from our 2014 NHD participants; students, parents, and teachers alike!


  • Learning public speaking, presentation skills, and interviewing skills.
  • Gaining research skills and how to compose a thesis and write an annotated bibliography.
  • Learning to work as a team.
  • Learning new computer skills such as Photoshop, NoodleTools, digital animation programs, and video editing software.
  • NHD teaches students that history can be fun, and that anything can happen!


  • Students learn perspective, discipline, independence, and initiative!
  • Students learn great time-management skills.
  • Students learn analytical skills.
  • NHD exposes them to myriad new technologies such as web design and moviemaking!


  • Students learn extensive research skills
  • Students learn independent work skills
  • Great opportunity for college-bound students.
  • Students learn how to identify bias and point of view.
  • NHD brings students joy!

Who Can Participate?


The History Day program is open to all students in grades 6-12. All types of students participate in History Day - public, private, parochial, and homeschool students; urban, suburban and rural students; gifted students and students with special needs.


Teachers are the backbone of the History Day program. They serve as mentors for students and are encouraged to integrate the History Day program into their classroom curriculum. Teachers also benefit from resource materials, workshops, and the opportunity for professional development through the History Day program.


The support of parents is one of the most important factors in the success of students participating in the History Day program. Parents who encourage and facilitate students in their History Day journey often benefit as much from the process as do their children.

Our History

National History Day (NHD) originated as a small, local contest in Cleveland, Ohio in 1974, when Dr. David Van Tassel and members of the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University created a program to help reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history in elementary and secondary schools. The program quickly expanded throughout Ohio and into surrounding Midwestern states before becoming a national program in 1980. With initial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, NHD expanded during the 1980s and 1990s. Now, 2 million people are engaged annually from nearly every state in the union. While the competition itself remains the core of the program, NHD has expanded its services to provide workshops, seminars, and curriculum materials for teachers and summer internships for students.

Now based in the Washington, DC area, the NHD organization is supported by volunteers across the country, including those who coordinate its state and local programs. Thousands support the program by serving as contest judges, workshop presenters, mentors, and advisers to students and teachers. Hundreds, based at colleges and universities, historical agencies, and educational organizations, serve as state and district coordinators who direct History Day programs in their areas.