Later this month students from four northern counties in New York State will compete in North Country History Day at Fort Ticonderoga’s Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. These students from Clinton, Essex, Franklin, and Warren counties will compete for the opportunity to represent the region at New York State History Day, held in Cooperstown, New York, on April 23rd.
History Day is a national program that teaches students the components of practicing good historical techniques. With an emphasis on primary sources, History Day requires students to research a topic related to an annual theme. Students present their findings in a final project that demonstrates not just good research, but the students’ ability to interpret their findings and draw conclusions—skills essential not just in history, but in life.
Students compete at two levels: Junior Division (grades 6-8) and Senior Division (grades 9-12). They can enter Individual projects or be part of a Group project. Students can choose to enter a Historical Paper, an Exhibit, a Documentary, a Website, or a Performance. The choice of entries enables a student to match their historical interest with a method of presentation best suited for their skills and abilities.
New York State is divided into fourteen regions stretching from eastern Long Island to western New York and from New York City to the Canadian border. Competitions often begin at the school district level and advance to the regional competitions. The top entries in each category earn the right to advance to the state contest, where winners advance to the national competition, held in College Park, Maryland, each year.
In 2010, two 6th grade students from St. Mary’s School, here in Ticonderoga, advanced all the way to the national competition. Natasha LaFrance and Rachel White did their project on the innovations in fortifications promoted by Sebastien Vauban. Natasha and Rachel were able to make a research appointment at the Fort’s Thompson-Pell Research Center, where, working with Curator of Collections Chris Fox, they found a great deal of information for their exhibit.
This year, students from Beekmantown Middle School, Edison Home School (Glens Falls), Moriah Central School (Port Henry), Peru Middle School, St. Mary’s School (Ticonderoga), and Ticonderoga Middle School will present their History Day projects at North Country History Day on March 10th. Judges from the local region—educators, museum professionals, and community leaders—will review their projects and interview each student. Every student receives positive feedback and constructive criticism from the judges with suggestions on how to make their projects better. This is especially useful for students advancing to the State Contest, because they are allowed (and encouraged) to make changes and improvements after the Regional Contest.
History Day is a great program for students and teachers. It teaches valuable skills that serve students well as they continue their education. I encourage you to get involved—as a parent, encourage your child and child’s teacher to participate; as a community member, become a judge or volunteer at a regional competition; as a teacher, be a mentor and advisor for your students.
I look forward to North Country History Day at Fort Ticonderoga every year. It’s so gratifying and amazing to see the skills and creativity of students that helps make history come alive!
Director of Education