In 2014 I went on an accreditation visit to Chinese Christian High School with Mr. Patterson. At these visits (I have done 3 now), I get to observe what works (and what does not work!) at other schools. One aspect of the Chinese Christian curriculum that intrigued me was their participation in the National History Day (NHD) competition. I asked their history teacher about it and was with the program. In short, students are given the opportunity to research a topic and then create a project that is of interest to them. This past year I leapt into the NHD and took the 7th and 8th grade students with me.
I encouraged the students to study what they are interested in: sports, entertainment, military, civil rights, nearly anything. Next I asked them what area they were interested in: Colonial era? Civil War? World War II? The topic that the student chose also had to fit this year’s NHD theme: “leadership and legacy.” Finally, the students were also allowed to display their newfound knowledge in a number of ways. They could create a documentary or a webpage if technology is their forte. If they are artistic they can create a exhibit (like a science fair backboard), and if they are more traditional, they could write a paper.
This spring our students displayed their research and creations in the Gateway café. The results were quite impressive. It was clear from their projects that they learned an incredible amount about their topics while conducting research. Students, parents, and guests came through the display room and commented about how remarkable the assignments were. But one stood out as superior and was selected to go to the state competition at William Jessup University in Rocklin. Isabella Negrete’s documentary about John Muir is an outstanding example of a project that is excellent but, even more than that is done with a passion for the topic. Isabella is passionate about nature and conservation so to research the father of Yosemite made sense. As you can see in the documentary, she conducted interviews with experts and went “in the field” to film her own footage.